Criticizing Side House Grill, a restaurant on the north side of Warsaw, for being something it’s not striving to be would be unfair. Conversations I’ve had with others who have visited have ranged from love to indifference. My opinions on it fall somewhere in the middle. The potential to be something “more” is there but taking that step is up to the owners and management. They may be perfectly content as they are and that’s their right. As a longtime supporter of locally-owned restaurants, I’m cheering for them.
Why restaurants have failed in Side House Grill’s location has to be one of the universe’s greatest mysteries. More traffic goes by that location than a majority of the other restaurants in the area. With the north side of Warsaw continuing to expand, the opportunity for the restaurant to take advantage is right in front of them, zooming by in their vehicles as they migrate from one shopping center to the next.
The interior space is clean and well laid out. If anything, it’s a little too sterile, at least on the family-dining side. The bar exudes character, its lights and décor functioning as a beacon to all of those aforementioned passing vehicles. Maybe it’s all the neon bar signs hanging in the windows or the personalized “Side House Grill” sign standing sentry over the area that locked me in. Whatever it is, the family dining area could use a decorator’s touch to add to the overall warmth of the dining experience. It’s not cold by any means but it wouldn’t take much to make the space more inviting.
There is an outdoor patio but it wasn’t in use due to the time of year were visiting. My assumption is that the space is properly utilized in the warmer months. People gravitate towards al fresco dining when the temperatures rise. If the space is available, use it to its full potential.
Our waitress was excellent. Food and drink orders were taken promptly. Crayons and mini coloring books were handed out to my two tax deductions and our drinks were served quickly. The food, however, took longer than expected and we were the only ones in the restaurant (and the bar) at the time. I’ll chalk this up to our surprise visit at an obviously less than busy time. Hopefully this isn’t the norm.
One of the drawbacks of writing a food blog is that you come to expect the extraordinary when visiting a restaurant. You want to be served a dish that’s going to make you want to revisit. While our food at Side House Grill may not have met those lofty expectations, it certainly wasn’t on the other end of the spectrum either.
The biggest issue facing Side House Grill when it comes to their food menu is the competition. They aren’t going to often come out on top of the decision-making process for locals when it comes to similarly themed prominent national chains such as Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday and Texas Roadhouse, the big baddie located just down the road. The presumed belief is that the new hotel around the corner will bring in steady traffic as they’re the only bar within walking distance. I hope it does.
Side House Grill doesn’t have a cocktail menu or even a subsection of adult beverages, something that can be found in every other restaurant I frequent that serves alcohol. It wouldn’t take much to create one and would help drive up business. Even if they threw in a handful of classics, at least giving people an option would be better than nothing at all.
The highlight of the evening was what I believe was the Peanut Butter Porter from Saugatuck Brewing. I love porters, a fondness that grows as the temperatures dip. If anything was to draw me back to Side House, it would be a pint full of this liquid gold. If you enjoy peanut butter, you’ll want to head here soon to give it a try.
Side House Grill is a locally-owned restaurant that deserves a chance to establish itself and find its footing among the national chains that dot our small community. If you find yourself on the north side of town amidst the bright lights of the shopping centers, look for the neon lights just north of Wally World and give them a chance. Every locally-owned small business deserves that.