As a general rule, I will never visit a restaurant during their first month in business.
It’s not that I’m not anxious to try new places. I am.
It’s not that I don’t want to give them business. I do.
It’s that I don’t want my opinion of a restaurant to be clouded by a bad experience early in its life. I hear stories all the time from people who go to a restaurant during its first two weeks, and all they talk about is how long the wait is, and how long it took to get drinks, and how long it took to get food.
So I wait. Not in an hour-long line to get in, but until the restaurant has had some practice. No amount of mock service days can prepare you for when the open sign comes on for the first time and you have customers waiting out the door.
That’s why I waited until recently to make my first trip to Coastal Grille.
Coastal Grille opened in late September in the Broadcasting Square Shopping Center, taking over a building that has seen Uno Chicago Grill, Mason’s Chophouse and, most recently, Seafood Shanty come and go.
Like Seafood Shanty before it, the new restaurant plays heavily toward the seafood lover. The connection to the ocean is apparent from the moment you walk through the door and see the large aquarium that separates the main dining room from the bar. Silver sculptures of deep sea fish hang on the wall, shimmering brilliantly between the windows.
More than a month removed from their opening, Coastal Grille was still packed on this Saturday night. Many more people streamed in behind us during our 30-minute wait until we were escorted to our table.
The menu is heavily inspired by the sea, but it does borrow a few favorites from its sister restaurant, Austin’s, including baby back ribs and shoestring fries. And like Austin’s, you have the option to begin your meal with a loaf of bread. In this case, it’s a warm, fresh-baked ciabatta that required all the willpower we had not to devour before our food arrived.
As someone who prefers animals that graze to those that swim, I passed on the surf and opted instead for turf with the Reggae Ribeye.
The menu describes the Reggae Ribeye as a 12 oz. steak that was marinated and basted in a sweet and spicy sauce. I was expecting a typical steak that had maybe been brushed once or twice during cooking. What I got was a beautiful cut of meat, glistening from the reflection of the light on the sticky sauce.
A rush of flavors hit my tongue on the first bite. The sauce tasted like a mixture of teriyaki, barbecue and chili oil, a mild kick tempered by the cooling sweetness, with a hint of salt besides. Cooked medium well, with just a hint of pink in the middle, it was one of the best restaurant steaks I have ordered.
All of their grilled specialties, and most of the entrees on the menu, are served with the vegetable of the day and a choice of side. While I love Austin’s shoestring fries, I knew I needed to change things up so I opted for house-made chips instead. The kettle-cooked chips were extra dark—not burnt—sealing in the flavors absorbed during the cooking process.
While none of the entrees include a starter salad, you can substitute a salad as one of your sides. That’s exactly what Julie decided to do, opting for Caesar. The leafy greens were piled high on the plate and topped with deliciously flavorful croutons that were obviously homemade.
Deciding that at least one of us had to order seafood, she decided on the Boston baked haddock for her entree. The fish was topped with a garlic cream sauce with lumps of shrimp and crab. The dish offered a mix of flavors and textures, with the cream sauce bringing everything together in a coherent dish.
Sadly, dinner proved too much for me and dessert was not in the cards. It was especially disappointing after seeing a Chocolate Bag walk past me. The Chocolate Bag is a dessert unique to Coastal Grille: hardened chocolate in the shape of a small bag, filled to the brim with whipped cream and topped with cherries. I may or may not have let out an audible “oooh” when it came near.
Instead we called it quits after our entrees, our total bill coming out to about $45.
After waiting a month (and an extra 30 minutes) my first visit to Coastal Grille did not disappoint.
I’m happy we waited, and will be even happier when we go back again soon.