Monday, December 20, 2010

A Burger At Beau's Grille

Beau's Grille first came onto my culinary radar back in 2000 when I found out that the restaurant had moved into the same space in Fairlawn that had been previously occupied by the restaurant Grappa, then headed by chef Scot Jones. After Grappa closed, Jones moved onto a number of other adventures, including the now closed Fedeli in Canton and more recently Chrissy Hynde's The Vegiterranean in downtown Akron. Chef Beau Schmidt stayed at that Fairlawn location for an additional three years before finally settling into the Akron Fairlawn Hilton located just across Market Street from Summit Mall.

I remember on several occasions eating at the Market Street Grille at that very same Hilton before Beau's Grille moved in. My mother used to work in the building right next door to the Hilton and on the occasion that she could get a sufficiently long lunch break, I would meet her there for lunch. Sadly, despite the existence of Beau's Grille since 1993 in its various locations, I never had a chance to check them out; at least not until today.

As I've already mentioned, Beau's Grille actually existed inside the Hilton Hotel Akron Fairlawn which was located at 3180 West Market Street, Akron, OH 44333 and can be reached directly at 330-865-5577. Parking was available all around the hotel. After parking my car in one of the spaces out front of the hotel, I took a picture of the front entrance:

Entrance to Akron Hilton
I went through the front doors of the hotel and made a sharp left; the entrance to Beau's Grille was directly in front of me. I was greeted warmly by general manager Paul Cincotta who upon realizing that I would be dining alone today offered me a copy of the local paper. Since I carry the Internet on my smartphone, I declined his generous offer and he proceeded to show me to a table in the bar area of the restaurant and left me with the menu.

Here was a shot of said menu:

Beau's Grille Menu Page 1
Beau's Grille Menu Page 2
Beau's Grille Menu Page 3
Inserted into the regular menu was a single sheet of paper detailing today's specials:

Beau's Grille Menu Page 4
Truth be told, since Beau's website has a copy of all of their menus, I had already done my due diligence in checking them out beforehand. What struck me initially was the cost of the food. I may have made the mistake of checking out their dinner menu first, but I was just a bit taken back by the high prices; they felt high for this area of Ohio. But, having not tasted the food yet, I didn't want to come to a prejudiced conclusion. Since I went for lunch today, I also checked out the lunch menu. As could be expected, the lunch menu was much more reasonably priced. An appetizer that caught my eye as unusual as I was looking through the lunch menu were the homemade potato and cheese pierogi. It's not odd to see pierogi on ethnic menus in northeast Ohio. But here it felt a little out of place. Then again, the ubiquitous chicken wings were also being offered, so I guess I can't be too surprised of the multi-ethnicity of the rest of the offerings.

Curiosity now firmly piqued, I ordered the pierogi with sautéed onions as my appetizer today:

Homemade Potato and Cheese Pierogi with Grilled Onions
Accompanying the dish was a side of sour cream:

Side Dish of Sour Cream
For $6.95, I received three potato and cheese filled pierogi. Normally, based on the description from the menu and the price listed, I would say that was a terrible value. However, when the plate arrived, it was filled with three enormous pierogi and topped with a vast quantity of sautéed onions. Pair this with a house salad and I can honestly say that it would've made a completely filling vegetarian meal. The pierogi themselves were nicely browned in butter (which there was no shortage of on the plate) and the filling was hot and the cheese melted. The onions had a nice caramelization to them and were cooked until soft and translucent. Was this a tasty plate of pierogi? Definitely. Was this an original plate of pierogi? Not exactly.

If there is one area that many chefs pride themselves on, it is taking a well understood and commonly accepted staple and executing their own twist to it. Had I received these pierogi at any of the church fish fries that I encountered during The Lenten Project, I would've been insisting that you check them out. But, other than the well executed flavors of the dish and the enormity of the dumplings themselves, they weren't particularly original. And while you can certainly point out the fact that the menu pointed out that the dish contained potato and cheese pierogi with caramelized onions, it definitely could've used that chef "spin" to it. Perhaps serve the caramelized onions as a jam reduction or put the onion inside the pierogi itself. Again, this was a tasty plate of food, just not an inventive one.

Of course, now I am going to change gears slightly. Whereas I wanted a bit of inventiveness in a plate of pierogi, when it came to my main plate of food today, it turns out that straightforwardness was the key to success. In doing my research on the restaurant prior to my visit, I had read that a number of guests had recommended the half-pound Angus burger. Being a lover of hamburgers, I decided to give Beau's version a go. The price listed on the menu was for a plain burger. For an additional $0.65, I could add bacon and cheese. The only disconcerting part of service today was when I asked my server what cheeses were available. Instead of just telling me what WAS available, my server started giving me a litany of what WASN'T available. I stopped him midstream and asked him to skip the have-nots and only focus on the haves. American, Swiss, or Cheddar. American, please.

While my pierogi had arrived quite quickly after I ordered them, my burger platter took a bit longer to arrive. Here was a shot of the plate with the accompanying French Fries:

Half Pound Angus Burger Platter
Here was a close-up of the bacon cheeseburger by itself:

Bacon Cheeseburger
I had asked for the burger to be cooked to a medium temperature and the kitchen didn't have a problem achieving the correct internal temperature:

Side Shot of Bacon Cheeseburger
I slathered a bit of ketchup onto the nicely toasted crown of the bun, removed the raw red onion from the stack of toppings and assembled my sandwich. After bisecting it with my knife, I took a bite and was rewarded with a hot and juicy burger that was nicely seasoned. The bacon was clearly cooked fresh and balanced out the other flavors nicely in the burger. The only complaint I had about the bacon was that it was a little tough to bite through and caused other parts of the sandwich to squish out the sides of the bun with each bite. The bacon didn't seem to be overly thick, so I can only surmise that it had been cooked just a bit too far. However, this was a minor criticism. Was the burger worth the $9+ price tag? Considering that other serious contenders (Whitey's, Teschner's, B Spot, etc.) were priced similarly, yes, I think it was. Was this as successful as say a Red Hot from Michael Symon's B Spot restaurant? No, it wasn't.

Accompanying the burger were freshly fried fries:

French Fries
The good news was that these fries had been seasoned after coming out of the fryer. They weren't greasy, but half of them were crispy and great and the other half were a bit limp and so-so. I don't know if these fries were fresh cut, but if they were, they were way better than what I expect of fresh cut fries, mostly in part due to the fact that they weren't a massive clump of limp, greasy potatoes.

As it turned out, because I ate the entire plate of pierogi, I only had enough room for half of my burger and fries. I took the other half to go and finished off the remainders for dinner later that day. Had I not been intent on trying both the pierogi and the hamburger today, I definitely could've stuck with one or the other and been completely sated. Overall, I'd say my visit for lunch today was a positive one and this has spurred me on to return to Beau's Grille for a proper dinner at some point in the near future. Depending on what you order for lunch, it can still be a pricey proposition to eat at Beau's Grille, but there were also some reasonably priced items that should suit both your pocketbook and your taste buds.

Beau's Grille on Urbanspoon

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