It’s midsummer, the hottest days of the year, and suddenly, you’re wondering, “where is everybody?” Backyards are empty; neighbors are neither grilling nor doing yardwork. Restaurant patios sit empty in the dripping humidity. It’s a lonely feeling, driving the empty streets of the city, and you notice that even the hardcore joggers and cyclists seem to be giving it a rest.
Then you step from a glaring, sun-baked parking lot into a cool, dark restaurant; you hear the murmur of a room full of diners, and your city comes to life once again.
The experience is one of summer’s greatest mini-moments of pleasure, and it happened recently at the Urban Grill.
Atmosphere: Nearly windowless and tastefully lit with softly glowing wall sconces, the restaurant is divided up into cozy rooms filled with handsome dark-wood furnishings, including plenty of comfy booth seating.
Menu: Habitues of Nick’s and Skip’s (restaurants under the same ownership) will recognize this crowd-pleasing, wide-ranging style of menu, with sandwiches, pasta, seafood, chicken and steaks. Of note are the nine separately priced options for topping a steak, including Oscar (crab, hollandaise, asparagus), Skip’s (mushroom demi-glaze) and Nick’s (melted blue cheese crumbles).
Best bites: A pulled pork rib sandwich — a special one evening — brought unctuous strands of meat in a good homemade sauce; for the side, choose the superior potato salad, a creamy delight flecked with dill.
Worth the splurge was the 8-ounce beef tenderloin filet, a quality cut ordered “Caroline” style—topped with crab, shrimp and a Cajun cream sauce. The char-grilled flavor of the steak contrasted the sweet-spiciness of its topping for a winning combo.
The key lime pie (more like a tart) provided a tingly, summer-worthy way to end dinner.
Not so much: The minced-up bits (rather than chunks) of strongly fishy tilapia bungled the fish tacos, while the “fire shrimp” appetizer brought those all-but-tasteless medium-sized shrimp so often found at midrange restaurants.
The jury’s out on the pecan chicken salad — certainly, the chicken strips satisfied in a crunchy way, but curiously, they tasted more sweet than nutty.
Wine service needs a little attention here — we had to send back two separate glasses; one was billed as a Sauvignon Blanc (but was a sweeter-style blend of white grapes); the other was a Shiraz past its prime.
Bottom line: A good place to chill out and enjoy casual to high-end food.
ADDRESS: 3651 86th St., Urbandale
KITCHEN HOURS: 11 a.m.-close Monday through Saturday.
CUISINE: American grill.
ALCOHOL: Full bar.
ATTIRE: Casual to stylish-casual.
DISABLED ACCESSIBILITY: Yes.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY: Yes — children’s menu available.
PARKING: Dedicated lot.