The Garden Grill’s name refers more to its remarkably fresh Italian and American menu items and less to its convenient location in Johnston’s Birchwood Crossing business park. The spot, which formerly housed the 5 & Diner cafe and then a Bosnian restaurant, was resurrected in September as The Garden Grill.
Business has been steady, our friendly waitress told us. Based on the sizable crowd at 7 p.m. on a Saturday evening, it was easy to believe her.
Sometimes restaurant remodels don’t work out so well, but the diner decor transitioned quite nicely. Bright red vinyl accents and small, black and white tile flooring give it a retro vibe. Stylish artwork adorns the walls, while white tablecloths and candles make it a classy affair. It has an open concept plan, yet different dining areas make it cozy.
We received some of the best customer service we’ve experienced in a while. My guest and I were immediately seated, and our waitress arrived moments later with water. After browsing through the wine menu, we decided to split an 18-ounce margarita ($3.49), a drink special that evening. We chose the mango margarita (light on the ice), and our drink was carefully made-to-order. The bartender even stopped by to make sure we enjoyed it. Nice touch.
Diners who can’t find something they’d like to eat here haven’t looked hard enough. The menu is full of Italian-American dishes you’d expect – calamari, Caesar salad, fettuccine Alfredo, steaks, seafood and more. There are a few surprising choices, like tequila shrimp pasta, made with 1800 Tequila cream sauce and garnished with fried tortilla strips and pico de gallo ($14.49).
My dining partner ordered the peppercorn encrusted rib-eye ($19.99). The meat was spicy, juicy and topped with a portobello-marsala cream demi-glaze which he sopped up with doughy, homemade bread.
Based on our waitress’s recommendation, I tried the Atlantic salmon ($15.99), which was charbroiled and finished with a lemon, pepper and dill cream sauce. The fish was a bit tough, but seasoned so well that the texture didn’t bother me. I’ve been to many places where rice dishes are bland, but not here. A light, buttery sauce coated the rice, and my side of vegetables was tossed with delicious, fresh herbs.
With stellar food and service, this place has a bright future. We plan to try The Garden Grill’s happy hour next time: half-off of most appetizers plus $2 domestic beers, $2.50 imported beers and $3.49 margaritas 4-6 p.m. daily.
Atlantic salmon ………………… $15.99
Peppercorn-encrusted rib-eye ………. $19.99
Margarita special ………………….. $3.49
Total, with tax and tip: $49.84
The Garden Grill
Find it: 8385 Birchwood Court, Johnston
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m.- 9 p.m. Sunday
Info: 278-5227, gardengrilldm.com