Bistro Grace opened their doors on Black Friday of 2013, taking over the space where Honey previously resided on Hamilton Ave., near the intersection at Blue Rock Street. Owner Suzanne McGarry named the restaurant after her granddaughter. Bistro Grace specializes in “traditional culinary dishes with a modern twist,” as well as craft beers and wines by the glass.
Locals who visited the space in its previous life will appreciate the extensive renovations that McGarry and her team put into the space. A striking, illuminated tin ceiling has been installed over the bar area, and the interior walls and fixtures are accented with reclaimed barn wood. Café-style banquette seating now runs along the wall opposite the bar. Rustic pendant lamps and chalkboards listing craft beers contribute further to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere that is both classy and casual.
The taps at Bistro Grace are filled with noteworthy local craft beers, such as Rhinegeist’s The Truth IPA and Mad Tree’s PsycHOPathy IPA, and Blank Slate’s Fume Smoked Porter (all $5). Over 30 additional beers are available by the bottle ($3-7). The bar menu also features eight signature cocktails ($9). Offerings include the Gin Rickey with cucumber and cilantro, and the Sazerac; Bulleit Rye, simple syrup, Pernod Absinthe & Peychaud’s bitters.
I was delighted to see there was not a single taco on the restaurant’s dinner menu (Northside joke!). The main dishes at Bistro Grace include a wide variety of meat and seafood options that range from $12-21. Standouts include the scallops with brown butter hollandaise ($18), braised lamb with bourbon cherry sauce ($19) and grilled hangar steak with bordelaise sauce and stout butter ($21). The options available for vegetarians are more limited, but feature items like the Quinoa Veggie Burger sliders with verde sauce ($12) that rise far above the consolation-prize entrees that herbivores are sometimes saddled with in fine dining establishments.
The menu also features a variety of sizeable starters ($6-14), including decadent items like the Duck Poutine, a French-Canadian dish with fries, duck confit, cheese curds and gravy. These starters and many other dishes on the Bistro Grace menu offer elegant updates to humble, traditional dishes that a wide variety of tastes will appreciate.
During our visit, my party of three sat in the bar area facing out into the restaurant. Although it was after 8:00PM on a Sunday, two-thirds of the tables were occupied and I made a mental note to get a reservation if I planned on dining there during busier hours. Nevertheless, we were greeted immediately by our server/bartender, and the owner herself.
Throughout our meal, our server showed a genuine interest in our dining experience and gave thoughtful recommendations based on our expressed preferences. We started with the Abby’s Mac and Cheese and the sizeable Beet salad with goat cheese, almonds and orange mint vinaigrette ($8). We liked how thick and creamy the mac and cheese was, and appreciated the portion- enough to feed three or four people. The salad was also impressively large, and the vinaigrette was a subtle and refreshing addition.
For dinner, we tried the Grace Burger made two ways (burgers are half price every Sunday) and the risotto cakes with tomato confit and celery cream sauce. I enjoyed the simplicity of the risotto cakes, and the burgers were a hit. While we ate, our server shared some of the thought processes behind the menu and invited us to sample a Sazerac cocktail, making our experience even more enjoyable.
We finished off the meal with dessert, dutifully trying not one, but all three options prepared in-house: chocolate mousse, crème brulee, and banana pudding. The banana pudding was the easy winner amongst the group, made outstanding by the addition of Bistro Grace’s homemade gingerbread ice cream.
All in all, Bistro Grace is a welcome addition to Northside’s growing restaurant scene. The dinner menu is one of the most ambitious and adventurous in the neighborhood, with enough versatility to satisfy a wide variety of tastes.
Visit www.bistrograce.com for online reservations and more information.
By Vanessa Thurman
Vanessa Thurman is an independent consultant and freelance writer. She and her husband moved to Northside in 2012 after falling in love with the community’s welcoming attitude and eclectic charm.