The Grill Room, one of three "Rooms" owned and operated by Chef Harding Lee Smith, used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. I found its casual environment versatile for many occasions, and the food was always good.
But after an utterly bizarre service incident in the bar left a bad taste in my mouth, I found myself avoiding the Grill Room, even though I missed my favorite menu items.
A few weeks ago, after some light Old Port shopping with Original Roomie A., we stopped on upper Exchange Street, hesitating between Sonny's and the Grill Room. Then the thought of some of my old favorites called to me, and I decided I needed to release my years-old grudge.
So we settled into the bar (only the patio and the bar are open with a limited menu from 3-5pm), ordered happy hour drinks and bar snacks. I selected a Lagunitas IPA and A. had a glass of prosecco, both of which are $3 during happy hour.
Fried olives intrigued us, but ultimately proved the least favorite of our sampled items. The wedgie salad was great, with a homemade herbed buttermilk dressing, and loads of cheese and bacon.
But my favorite, the thing I'd missed so much, was the "steak and cheese" appetizer. Beef carpaccio (thinly sliced, raw) is served over a block of breaded and fried goat cheese. An aioli is drizzled over the beef, and it's topped with fried capers and diced red onions. The whole thing is served over a bed of fresh spring mix.
I love the mix of temperature and texture here - the crunchy fried goat cheese, with the soft raw beef; the cold beef and the warm cheese.
So while we enjoyed our happy hour, this place will never be one of the restaurants that comes to mind when people ask me where they should eat. I think the entrees are pricy ($19 to $31, ordered a la carte), and there are so many places in town to get consistently good food for less.
But as with all the Rooms ($3 wine, people!), the happy hour deals are worthwhile, and I'm so glad to have the 'steak and cheese' appetizer back in my life.