Friday, January 30, 2015
Girard may not be the biggest town in Trumbull County, Ohio, but never let it be said there’s no place to eat. From the popular Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe at one end of State Street to Margherita’s on the other (not to mention several places on the side streets), this town’s got you covered breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A favorite haunt was Mikeee’s, somewhere around the middle of State Street; my husband Jack and I spent many a lazy summer afternoon on the upstairs outdoor deck and many more in the lower-level bar trying out everything we could on the extensive sandwich menu. When that ended, we were frequent visitors to the Big Family Restaurant; when that one closed, we almost cried.
But then, we got word that a new place was coming. And in early May 2014, the Fire Grill opened. Not too long afterward, we were there - hoping to find another great place – and we did. The inside is quite a change, although it remains fairly informal. It’s been redone in tones of gray, black and red with spacious booths, a fire grill at the back (hence the name) complete with a display case in front filled with tempting desserts and lots of really cool hanging lamps. It looks totally different, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The full bar now includes a ton of specialty beers, and anyone interested in sampling can get flights on all the draughts. That’s really not our style, though, so we stuck with more traditional Yuengling at our first visit at lunchtime. Picking what we wanted to eat, though, took a bit of time. We weren’t looking for a huge meal, but we did want to sample a few things. The specialty here is barbecue - ribs, chicken, pork and beef - and on each table are bottles of special add-on sauces, mostly Carolina-style like East Carolina Vinegar, North Carolina Mustard and South Carolina Spicy Red (they’re sold by the bottle as well). As long-time vacationers at the North Carolina Outer Banks, we were happy to see those options - well, maybe not the vinegar sauce, definitely not a favorite of ours.
It took a while to decide what we wanted, even for lunch; I did consider the kielbasa-style Texas hot link sausage topped with sauteed red peppers, onions and tomato sauce on a toasted hoagie roll (plain or with jalapeno-cheddar sauce, $7.99). Finally - now on my second Yuengling - I settled on one of the daily specials, a half-order of Better-Than Maw-Maw’s Fried Green Tomatoes with soup or salad ($4.99 at the time of our visit). I chose chili as my soup, and then just for fun, I ordered an appetizer of smoked chipotle wings ($5.99).
Jack, meanwhile, opted to try the Portabella Non-Burger, a fire-grilled whole portabella mushroom marinated in homemade balsamic vinegar and topped with charred romaine, grilled tomato and Asiago cheese ($6.99). With it he chose cole slaw, and got a surprise: our server asked whether he wanted mayonnaise or vinegar style (he picked the latter and said it was delicious).
The wings, the menu said, are put in the smoker first and then fried and tossed in Chipotle butter sauce. The flavor was excellent, and I enjoyed them despite not being a fan of getting thick red goo all over me. The chili, too, was outstanding and a bit different, with smoked beef brisket, ground beef, red kidney beans, plum tomatoes, onions and peppers.
The tomatoes were coated with panko bread crumbs, topped with creamy bleu cheese sauce, sprinkled with scallions and finished with balsamic glaze reduction - definitely not like mother used to make. They were wonderful, although they were fried a bit too crispy for my liking - we old folks are always worried about breaking teeth. For the record, they’re also available as an appetizer.
Within a couple of weeks, we returned - this time with friends Jerry and Barb from Niles in tow. We arrived about 5:30 p.m. on a Friday and were seated immediately, but by the time we left, there had to be at least 20 people waiting for a table. We made a mental note to get here before 5 p.m. for dinner (though our usual plan when eating out is to have a late lunch somewhere between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., typically a slower time for most restaurants).
But once we were seated, it seemed we sat there forever until one of us caught a server’s eye and she came fairly quickly. Because of the long wait, we’d had plenty of time to peruse the menu and make our choices, so we placed our drink and food orders at the same time. Shortly thereafter, we got a visit from the owner, who was checking up on us (I know at least one of our group had a scowl on her face at that point - me - which probably signaled that the natives at our table were a bit restless. He was very nice, and among other things told us that the outdoor balcony upstairs should be open soon. At this point, it’s winter, so we’ll check back when the weather improves.
Jack’s choice for dinner was the Caprese flatbread ($6.99) with a side of macaroni and cheese ($3.99). Jerry picked the Southern Pulled Pork sandwich, which comes with fries, for $7.99. Barb and I both went for the Braggin’ Rights Brisket sandwich -mine with fries and hers with the vinegar-based coleslaw (both $9.99).
Jack was delighted with the flatbread - six rather large squares topped with Roma tomatoes, red onions and roasted garlic topped with fresh basil, melted mozzarella cheese and drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. The mac and cheese is a bit different, with a crumb coating, and he deemed it outstanding.
Jerry was happy with his pulled pork sandwich, and Barb and I absolutely loved the brisket, which is shredded to make the sandwich. It comes with some kind of mayonnaise-based sauce, but there wasn’t much of it and the flavor isn’t the least bit overwhelming. I opted to add a bit more flavor from the bottles of sauces on the table - this time choosing the delicious Kansas City Sweet.
My only beef? Nowhere - not on the website, the Facebook page, the menu or even the restaurant’s front door - have I been able to find when the place is open for the entire week. Finally, the hours I’ve added below turned up on an obscure restaurant review site, but I advise anyone wanting to make advance plans to visit to call to be sure they’re accurate.
If you go:
30 N. State St.
Girard, Ohio 44420
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.