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Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times 10/23/2012 Chef Savanna Underwood serves up a western omelet with hash browns and bacon at the Great American Grill at the Hilton Garden Inn in Blacksburg Tuesday.
Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times 10/23/2012 An open dining room flooded with natural daylight is a feature of the Great American Grill at the Hilton Garden Inn in Blacksburg Tuesday.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
When we think about going out to eat, we usually don’t consider hotel restaurants. However, hidden gems are sometimes found in such overlooked places. Sadly, such is not the case for the Great American Grill at the Hilton Garden Inn in Blacksburg.
I had my suspicions when no one I talked to had heard of the restaurant, but since it is relatively new, I took a gamble that I might have been ahead of the buzz.
The Plantation Road restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner. It occupies a small section of the hotel, resting essentially within the lobby. Small architectural features separate the seating area from the hotel’s front door. Diners are provided a familial view of the small kitchen, where the cooks prepare food. The dining area is flooded with natural light that pours in through a multitude of strategically placed windows.
On a recent dinner visit, I ordered cheese tortellini ($14) for myself and chicken tenders from the kids’ menu ($6) for my daughter. The tortellini came in a literally overflowing dish — our server apologized as the table was lightly blanketed in pesto-cream sauce. However, the pasta was properly cooked, and the vegetables in the dish were tender but not soggy. The wilted spinach was flavorful.
The child’s chicken tender platter was enormous — six huge tenders and a mountain of country-cut steak fries completely covered a large plate. Until I checked the bill, I was sure our waitress had mistakenly brought us the full-size dish ($8). The all-white chicken breasts and fries were standard fare but were served plenty hot.
Breakfast offered a different dining experience. In contrast to a traditional eatery, orders are placed directly with the cook at the kitchen window rather than with the server. This proved a bit annoying to me and downright inconvenient for the family of four I observed dividing the parenting and food-ordering duties between the mother and father.
Breakfast diners may select from a limited a la carte menu consisting of either eggs, an omelet or pancakes accompanied by a side (bacon, sausage or breakfast potatoes) for $8.95. I was brought a single cup of coffee upon arrival, but nobody ever came around to refill my mug, even though I watched as guests at other tables were offered refills. The food was by no means unpleasant; in another setting I might have said it was good. But the fact that I also had to fetch my own check from the front desk while servers brought checks to other tables left a bad taste in my mouth.
Out-of-towners who visit Blacksburg, perhaps for a conference or a football game, and stay at the Hilton should by all means take advantage of the in-house restaurant for breakfast. But this college town has so many worthy restaurants to offer that I would advise skipping the hotel restaurant for dinner and venturing out to an establishment with better food and service.
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