Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shiraz Grille, 2739 Breton Road, SE - 10/13/11

Shiraz: it’s a wine, an ancient city in Iran, and a wonderful restaurant in Grand Rapids. The owner is Iranian (Persian) and the food is as unique to Grand Rapids as is the ambiance. 
The exterior will not grab your attention but the interior certainly will. It’s lovely with dark wood and carpeting, some Iranian decor (faux and real), a small bar, a separate banquet room, and a small outdoor patio. 
There is a lunch (petite) menu available until 2:30 but luckily for us, our server brought us the full menu by mistake. All of the items were available for lunch, which we wouldn’t have known.

We chose Persian Shrimp Cocktail for an appetizer. Grilled and chilled, the jumbo shrimp were pomegranate-glazed and came with a delicious mint, yogurt sauce. Pomegranates, mint, and yogurt are staples of Iranian cooking and this was a fine starter.
Ordering from the dinner menu, everything was ala carte. Our server ably and expertly suggested soup and salad and we couldn’t resist. The soup offering is seasonal only and therefore not described on the menu; we loved the seasonality and the soup. It was  a wonderful mung bean based soup that included kidney beans, mint, and onion. 
All of the salads sounded interesting but we decided to share a Shirazi. Chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and parsley came marinated in olive oil, lime juice, and mint, and it was an exquisite limey, minty treat.
From the entrees, one of us ordered Barg and the other ordered Sultani, and here are the menu descriptions:
Barg: (filet mignon Persian-style) $20.00
A juicy skewer of marinated tenderloin, charbroiled to perfection.
Koubideh: (seasoned ground kabob) $14.00
Two juicy strips of our house-blended beef and lamb.
Sultani: (Barg and one Koubideh) $22.00
Combination of charbroiled filet mignon and a strip of seasoned ground beef/lamb.
We assumed that the Sultani would be smaller portions of the previous two menu items but to our surprise, the Sultani was a replica of the Barg but with the addition of a strip of beef/lamb described in Koubideh. For two dollars more, please order the Sultani.

Both meat strips were tender and delicious. Persian food is flavorful but not spicy or hot and these dishes were beautifully prepared and mouth-watering delectable. Both were accompanied by saffron-topped basmati rice, grilled tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and a huge chunk of garlic.
We’re both fans of garlic but not straight up. We mashed a little up to stir into the rice but otherwise left it alone. The other vegetables were a perfect accompaniment but we were a little skeptical about the saffron. It’s incredibly expensive and frequently imitated but a staff member assured us it was the real deal, imported from Iran. 
The single thing we objected to most about our dining experience was the restaurant music. It played from someone’s iPod that held cheesy love-songs, and repeated. It was in sharp contrast to the tasteful decor and upscale atmosphere. On a previous visit for dinner, a classical guitarist was playing, and on their website, there is gorgeous music by an Iranian violinist, Bijan Mortazavi. A change-up for lunch would be wonderful. 
The lunch menu is much more reasonably priced - you just have to endure the music. So don’t let the aforementioned prices scare you off. Experience delightful Persian cuisine in this unique setting. You may "like" them on Facebook. Ba’adan mibinamet!
Shiraz Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rosie’s Diner - RIP, for now

Beginning life in 1946 as the Silver Dollar Diner in New Jersey, the diner came to national attention as the set of a series of commercials for Bounty paper towels featuring Nancy Walker as the waitress, Rosie. The commercials began in 1970 and sometime during that decade, the diner was renamed in honor of its most famous waitress.
Purchased in 1991 by a Michigan artist, the diner was brought to Rockford and opened for business. Two additional diner cars eventually joined Rosie’s, and a new owner took over all of them in 2006.  One car was converted into a sports bar, and later closed.  The other car was turned into a seasonal ice cream shop in September 2010.
Last July, we had a fun lunch at the charming diner and enjoyed the 1950s decor, spicy cheeseburger soup, a sourdough melt, a cheeseburger, and well-prepared onion rings.
On October 2, a temporary closing for renovations turned permanent when the owner closed the doors. Employees were left without notice and without their last paychecks. The business is in a poor location, and with 30 full and part-time employees it was probably over-staffed but the new owner gave it a go. Before she bought it, the property was seconds away from the auction block after a default by an earlier buyer, so it’s a difficult proposition at best. 
So cheers to Rosie’s Diner and its new life, somewhere down the road, maybe near you.
The quicker picker upper :)

4/27/12 Update:  The diners were sold at auction yesterday.

5/7/12 Update: Here's a link to the latest news.

Rosie's Diner on Urbanspoon