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A Grand secret

by Wren Wertin
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It’s casual, fast and affordable, but don’t underestimate the culinary merits of Grand Ave. Grill in Eagle.

The restaurant, owned and operated by Mike and Chris Ryan and Jamie Jones, has something for every palate. Mike and Jamie stay in the kitchen, while Chris takes care of things in the front of the house.

“I think there are too many fine dining restaurants in Vail, and not enough places you can go for a casual meal,” said Chris. “We hope to mostly be a local restaurant, but we’ve had a lot of tourists drop in, too.”

The Grill has two dining rooms – one in the bar area, the other in back with an enormous fireplace. Set with simple leather place mats and the necessary condiments, there’s nothing fussy about it. The entire restaurant in non-smoking.

My husband and I ate at the restaurant last week. Upon our arrival we were both vaguely frazzled from our work days, and were pleased to walk into the comfortable dining room. While he sipped a cold draught Heineken, I prolonged summer with a mojito, sweet with mint and rum. What Chris calls “fun drinks” are a specialty of theirs, and the list includes mango margaritas and peach belinis.

“We live here,” explained Mike. “We knew Eagle had a desperate need for good food. And we serve a little bit of everything for everyone.”

“At first, a lot of people said Eagle wasn’t ready for a restaurant,” said Chris. “But it’s been just about a year, and here we still are.”

The Grill serves down-home comfort foods, light and zesty fresh items – and everything in between. The daily fish special is a particular passion of Mike’s. Rule of thumb: If it sounds good, order it, because it is.

We began with a slew of appetizers. For those in the mood for a treat, there’s really only one option: the beer-battered shrimp ($8.95). Mike and Jones have mastered the art of deep frying without producing heavy or greasy food. The light breading soaks up a sweet and spicy sauce, and has an intense flavor. The jalapeno poppers ($7.95) are also tasty. Made in-house, the spice of the pepper is tempered by the cream cheese. A smattering of bacon and cilantro add a special kick.

The bruschetta ($6.95) comes with a heap of diced tomatoes and basil, glazed with a balsamic reduction – almost sweet, with a nip at the end. I favored the Asian salad ($4.95), with shredded cabbage, cilantro, toasted coconut, candied almond and veggies, tossed with a ginger-coconut vinaigrette. Grand Ave. Grill also serves the standards such as wings and quesadillas.

Anyone interested in soup should try their black bean and roasted carrot concoction ($3.95), served side-by-side in the same bowl like yin and yang. The spice of the beans is a good match for the sweetness of the carrots.

The restaurant used to be occupied by Eagle River Smokehouse, and still has the enormous smoker out back to prove it. In addition to roasting peppers in it for sauces, they smoke their ribs ($11.95), well seasoned with a dry rub and served with their barbecue sauce. We also enjoyed the asiago-crusted chicken pasta ($13.95), the pungent crust melding well with the poblano chiles, cilantro pesto and penne.

Though we didn’t think we could possibly eat another thing, we managed to gobble up two desserts, a testament to how tasty they are. The Grand sundae ($6.95) come with a secret weapon – banana spring rolls. Toss in ice cream, a trio of sauces and coconut and almonds, you’ve got something rather wonderful. The bread pudding ($5.95) was another highlight, creamy with custard.

“We really just wanted to serve simple, American cuisine,” said Mike. “Something everyone can choose from.”

And as Mike proceeded to prove throughout the evening, sometimes the most straightforward of menus can provide the most interesting of meals. Grand Ave. Grill is a kick-back place.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

Casual American fare

Grand Ave. Grill

Lunch and dinner daily, beginning at 11 a.m.

Breakfast on weekends, beginning at 8 a.m.

328-4043


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