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STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times Photo taken November 7, 2012. Growlers Shrimp and Grits.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Growler’s American Grill & Venue opened in January in the space at Towers Shopping Center formerly occupied by Awful Arthur’s. Although the name and menu changed, the management did not. Barry Caldwell, the longtime manager of that Awful Arthur’s location, is the owner of Growler’s.
As the name suggests, Growler’s is a pub-style restaurant with its own brewery next door (where you can fill half-gallon growlers with beer to take home). It occupies a large space with a dining room in front that is entirely separated from the enclosed bar area in the rear.
The light-gray walls trimmed in red offer a pleasant but subdued environment, and the light fixtures made of Ball jars are a nice touch. Windows along one whole side of the dining room let patrons gaze at the huge fermentation tanks in the brewery next door, while several flat-panel televisions show various sporting events.
Growler’s serves classic American fare. Lunch includes such staples as a traditional club sandwich ($7.95), burger ($7.95) and chicken pot pie ($6.95), while dinner offers include meatloaf ($12.95), beef stroganoff ($11.95), and shrimp and grits ($12.95).
All sandwiches come with either chips, cole slaw or fresh fruit. The delicious club sandwich I ordered for lunch was packed with ham, turkey, bacon, Swiss and American cheeses, plus lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. My lunch companion ordered a Cuban sandwich with roasted pork, ham, lettuce, tomato, pickle and Swiss cheese on a sub roll. He pronounced it “awesome.”
My appetizer at dinner provided the only real disappointment. The wings ($8.95) in a porter barbecue sauce were larger and tougher than most wings I’ve eaten. They were also so lightly sauced as to be almost tasteless, though the little puddles I managed to find were sweet and flavorful. The blue cheese dressing had a strange tint and gelatinous consistency, and although it tasted OK, I avoided it.
In conjunction with the pub-brewery theme, Growler’s incorporates beer into some of its dishes, as with the porter in the wing sauce. I would have sworn there was beer in the superb cup of stew ($3.50) with slow-cooked beef, carrots, celery and onions — but according to the restaurant, there isn’t. Regardless, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
There are three other aspects of dining at Growler’s that I am particularly fond of.
First, upon being seated, the waitress delivered a complimentary basket of johnnycakes (corn bread fritters with whipped honey butter). They were dense, moist and deliciously sweet.
Second, a good number of the entrees are available in either half or whole orders. For those who are budget- or calorie-conscious, this is a nice touch.
Finally, kids eat free from the kids’ menu. Parents of young children know how frustrating it can be to drop five bucks on chicken nuggets only to find out the kids won’t eat them. My kids ate the fried shrimp, and although the portions were a little small (four shrimp), I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Perhaps as a holdover from its Awful Arthur’s days, Growler’s still serves oysters on the half shell and peel-and-eat shrimp. My wife’s half-pound of shrimp ($7.95) were large, tasty and well seasoned with Old Bay.
I ordered a half-order of shrimp and grits, which our waitress said is a house favorite. It was competently prepared — the grits were creamy, the seasoned shrimp were large and small pieces of bacon ratcheted up the flavor. The sauce, however, could have used a little salt and a touch more spice.
Contrary to complaints relayed from a friend, we received prompt and pleasant service on both visits. At lunch, when it’s particularly important to get in and out, the food came quickly and drinks were refilled as needed.
The bottom line
Having never eaten there, Growler’s surprised me considerably. I had always just pictured it as a brewery and bar with food as an afterthought. In addition to being reasonably priced, however, the food is generally quite good. Maybe it will surprise you, too.
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