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May 28, 2008 04:54 AM

The Grill Room Opens in Portland, ME

The Grill Room opened last Friday (5/23) at 84 Exchange Street, the former real estate of Natasha's, A casual steakhouse featuring natural raised meats and fish, the restaurant caters to a late night crowd - the bar stays open until 12:45, serving an extensive menu. Their à la carte dinner menu allows diners to mix and match meats, fish, starches, vegetables and sauces that meet their unique tastes, appetites and budgets.

They plan to start serving lunch mid-June. Seating in the nice weather will expand out into the courtyard abutting Tommy's Park. Given the location in the heart of the Old Port, I suspect they will attract a steady business and tourist lunch crowd.

While the wood grilled beef and seafood are the Grill Room's forte, I will return for the wood fired pizzas (the BBQ Duck pizza is amazing), succulent mushrooms (the stuffed mushroom appetizer is to die for), affordable prices, and lively atmosphere.


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  1. Went on Sunday night. What a great looking place and something that has been missing on the Portland scene. The only problem was that Harding is understaffed right now and the wait for the food took forever. It was over an hour from the time we ordered our meals until they arrived. We weren't upset, we knew it would be busy and that they had only been open a couple of days.

    The filet mignon which is cooked with the wood heat was incredible. The sides are also very cheap compared to what a city steakhouse would cost you. Side potato was 3 bucks, mash potatoes 2 bucks.

    This place, although more upscale with the food and looks, carries the same laid back attitude of The Front Room. In fact, the next morning we went to the Front Room for brunch. I'm not a "foodie" by any means, I just like good food. This is really good food.

    7 Replies
    1. re: grittys457

      I also had a great time Friday night despite a few MINOR opening weekend hiccups. None of my issues were with the food, it was wonderful.

      I was really impressed with the pricing. Even though I indulged on a 25 dollar steak (this is a lot for me) the sides and wine were so affordable that I walked out only spending 45 on myself, including tax and tip. I think you could get out of there for half that by getting a pizza salad and splitting a carafe with a friend.

      My quick thoughts:
      Atmosphere was hip but relaxed. Staff was friendly. Steak was the best I may have ever had out in Portland. Wine prices kept total bill down.

      I will be back a lot I am sure of that.

      1. re: amyc

        I was at the Grill Room last night for dinner. The atmosphere is nice, and the interior looks more like a trendy bar than a steakhouse.

        The menu is impressive, and I agree that the inexpensive sides make for a reasonable tab.

        We started off with the duck and bleu stuffed mushrooms. It was well balanced, with the bite of the bleu cheese and the mellow smokiness of the duck.

        I had the pepper crusted strip of the menu. The steak was just not up to par for a place with a giant cow on the logo. It was cooked correctly, the sauce was spot on, and the potatoes were wonderful. But the actual piece of meat left a lot to be desired. It was fairly tough and low on flavor. Certainly not what I would expect from a place where grilled meat is the focus of the menu. And if "naturally rasied" translates into "tough meat" then the chef needs to rethink a lot of the menu.

        My friend had the duck fettucini . It was very similar to the appetizer, with a slightly sweet, nutty sauce working well with the roast duck. I thnk she made the better dinner choice.

        The only other issue I had was with the service. Our appetizer was delivered to a neighboring table, and we only found put about it when the couple next to us asked if we would like their mushrooms. Bread came out about 30 minutes after the appetizers, and water didn't get refilled. There wasn't anything terrible about it, but I would expect more polished service in the future. I assume that a lot of it is just growing pains, since the place has only been opened for a few weeks, so I can be pretty forgiving.

        So all in all, it was a nice night out, with decent food in a very comfortable atmosphere. Unfortunately, for a steakhouse, the steak just wasn't up to speed.

        1. re: scrappyhappy

          My .02...

          Great room, super bar. I've been a couple times and sat at the bar. Delicious fried oysters with tabasco-honey sauce and hollandaise. Sat in the restaurant for a steak dinner. The server was pleasant but a little overzealous trying to sell the "must be ordered in advance" souffle cake. No biggie. Ordered the Dry Aged Porterhouse ($28, I think). It only comes by thickness not weight. This wouldn't matter to me except it was described as being 1 inch to 1.5 is size. Quite a difference in my book. Also, I was very disappointed that my porterhouse was nothing more than a T-bone with a tenderloin eye about an inch wide. If it's a porterhouse, charge me $35 but give me the right cut! Also, it came overcooked (ordered medium rare and came medium well) despite the lecture by the server about steakhouse temperatures. I'll be back but probably not for a steak...

          1. re: scrappyhappy

            I went to The Grill Room for dinner with my boyfriend a couple of weeks ago and was extremely underwhelmed. Average. Servicable. Medicore. Those are the words I would use to describe the place and that is being nice.
            I had the arugula& goat cheese salad which was fair but wasnt anything you cant find at Applebees or Chilis. My dinner was the tuna steak with sauce gribichhe and olive tapenede which was barely salvagable because it was so dry. My boyfriend had the crabcakes app which he enjoyed and i sampled and thought they were good...his filet mignon was tough and chewy. We would have stayed for dessert as we thought we had allowed enough time before catching a movie but it took so long between courses and drinks that we had to leave rather abruptly. I overheard a few of our neighboring diners complaining of the same slow service. It sounded as if a party of 4 was going to walk out on their bill they were so frustrated. I guess that why the prices are so low. With average food and poor service you cant expect to pay alot.

          2. re: amyc

            Indulged with a 25 dollar steak,,,,,I can't wait to try it...

            1. re: jspear

              We have been twice and completely satisfied each time...
              The steak quality is not PRIME, but neigher is the prices. The sides are very reasonably priced, and the drinks are very good. They now have a manager walking around, so if there is a problem, feel comfortable to complain.

              1. re: irwin

                It has moved to my must try list this summer.....

        2. If I want to bring someone for a pre dinner drink, would the Grill Room be better or Top of the East in Eastland hotel? Want somewhere nice...

          8 Replies
          1. re: relativeways1

            Neither !!!!!
            Go to the top of the Portland Harbor Hotel.....
            Called Eve's at the Garden.....
            Very nice, quiet, and good drinks

            1. re: irwin

              Isn't the "top" of the Harbor Hotel the second floor??? Eve's is fine, quiet outdoor patio. What is most important? View, drink quality, proximity or surroundings? The outdoor deck at Mim's is a great view of the bay. The Armory at the Regency hotel has that "country club" barroom feel and decent drinks. John Myers, barman at The Grill Room has the best rep for highest quality drinks and Top of the East has overstuffed chairs and prices but a bird's eye view...

              1. re: Noreaster

                Well a nice view would be preferable, but I was just looking at the Grill Room and it also has a good selection of apps we could get with our drinks. I would also like reasonable prices for drinks. Is Top of the East overpriced?

                1. re: relativeways1

                  Top of the East has a musty smell, and seedy.
                  It needs a complete overhall....

                    1. re: irwin

                      Sounds like it's been a while since you've been there. While it is not my first or even second choice personally (yes, the drinks are overpriced) it it certainly is not "seedy". It happens to be quite comfortable, decent view, average drinks and overpriced. If the weather is good, go for the upper deck of Mim's. Otherwise, The Grill Room will do just fine albeit noisy.

                      1. re: Noreaster

                        I've been to the Grill Room three times now. I like the bar, love the space but have found the food to be a bit underwhelming. The first night I was there I ordered the filet mignon, rare. It arrived with not only a cool center, it was cool all the way around, but it had come with a spicy sauce so I didn't ask that it be returned to the grill. Importantly, it wasn't quite the quality of meat that I would expect from a place referring to itself as "The Grill Room". The vegetable side (grilled asperagus) was very good. My tab with a sazarac was about $55.

                        My second trip was for lunch - I got the steak salad. There were a few chewy morsels of steak on a bed of crispy lettuce. It wasn't bad BUT it wasn't as good as the steak salad that they serve at Shay's on Monument Square.

                        Last night I returned for dinner and had the braised shortrib entree. The shortrib was tasty but there wasn't much to it. I didn't really enjoy the flavor combination of the mashed potatoes and cabbage, but that's just me. I had a couple of sazaracs and my bill was just over $50.

                        I'll probably return to the Grill Room for the sazaracs. I'd rate the place on par with Walters and Davids, but not to be confused with Street & Company, Fore Street, 555 or Hugos for overall quality.

                        1. re: Keefer Lucas

                          I also have been to the Grill Room on three occasions,and notice that they undercook the meats, so it can go back if needed. I have had excellent results except for this past Monday evening, when I ordered the filet med/well, and got med/rare. The baked potato was not totally baked. I sent the steak back and it came back in about 7-8 minutes cooked medium (-) because it was still red in the middle. I ate it because I was hungry, but did not enjoy the meal. All other visits were wonderful... Great restaurant, great sides, decent pricing, nice atmosphere, and the service has also been great.