When a reader complains about the stars I've assigned to a restaurant, I always say it's an imperfect system at best. And please read the whole review to see what I really think.
How, for instance, would you rate the service we had at the Granite Bar & Grille, an appealing place that recently opened in the spot where Rick's Cafe Americain used to be?
First of all, the staff could not be nicer. When we asked if we could sit at a table that a waitress said was reserved for someone else, the manager made it happen. The other table by the big open windows was cleared and set before that party arrived, so no one suffered.
Our food was a bit slow in coming because the place was so crowded, but we didn't feel neglected -- until, that is, our waitress arrived to say our entrees would be ready before our appetizers because of a computer glitch. We had ordered them first, then had waited awhile before ordering our main courses. Our waitress was so busy, maybe she forgot to enter our appetizers. We told her to skip them.
The manager stopped by to apologize, said he had taken the missing dishes off the check, and brought us the tuna appetizer on the house because he wanted us to try it anyway. The squares of sushi-grade fish seared with blackening spices had crisp pita chips to soften the fire and were as good as he had promised; but all our appetizers, including the tuna, ended up on the check anyway.
Not for long.
On the one hand, I felt like saying get your act together, you've been open a month. On the other, this isn't the Ritz. Everyone is trying hard, the customers are having a rockin' good time, the food is decent and the Granite Bar & Grille is Canton's happening place to be.
Plus, the kitchen turns out an excellent hamburger, well worth the price of admission. It has heft and a ton of meaty grilled flavor, and it comes on a focaccia roll, which tastes great with the juicy beef. On the side are hot-from-the-fryer french fries with a crisp-crunchy batter exterior. The rest of us couldn't keep our hands off them.
Burgers, sandwiches and pizzas make up a lot of the menu, but there are some entrees and pastas, and a separate section of "fresh catches." You choose the fish, how you want it prepared, and the sauce, such as hollandaise or sesame Asian marinade.
The blackened swordfish with pineapple salsa we ended up with was a bit overcooked but still had appeal. The pineapple, tomato and onion are, according to our waitress, chopped and tossed together after you order the salsa, so it tastes very fresh. Mixed vegetables and potatoes whipped with a touch of garlic come with the fish and other entrees, but we pretty much ignored the whipped potatoes in favor of the french fries.
Granite serves up a huge free-form crab cake, fat with snowy lumps and good seasonings; a couple of steaks; ribs and a roasted vegetable platter. Pastas are prepared with a deft hand. Penne, for instance, is tossed with chicken, spicy Andouille sausage, fresh spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, all in a light pesto sauce that whispers instead of shouts garlic. Crisp garlic toasts made from baguettes are arranged prettily on the side of the bowl.
Somewhat surprising for a bar, Granite treats dessert seriously, offering a smooth key lime cheesecake, Mandarin orange sorbet in a hollowed-out orange, peanut butter ice cream in a milk chocolate shell and, my favorite, an individual ice cream bombe that's more the texture of vanilla and chocolate mousses than ice cream.
Granite has a handsome dining room designed by the owners themselves. One of the best features of the decor is that the huge windows can be thrown open so you feel like you're eating outdoors. Striking art mirrors, each different, line the metallic champagne-colored walls. There is -- no surprise here -- granite everywhere, most notably the bar, but also the tabletops. It's a good-looking place.
You win some, you lose some. Lost: Rick's Cafe Americain, where Bogart-lovers could watch Casablanca nonstop and eat an Ilsa's California Melt. In its place, the Granite Bar & Grille, a hotspot that's just as high-energy, just as jumping -- but judging from my meal there, has better food.
GRANITE BAR & GRILLE
Address: 2903 O'Donnell St., Canton
Hours: Open every day for lunch and dinner
Prices: Appetizers, $3.95-$16.95; entrees, $9.95-$23.95
FOOD *** (3 stars)
SERVICE ** (2 stars)
ATMOSPHERE *** (3 stars)
RATINGS / / Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *