DINING: Circle Centre’s new ‘rock’

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When a chain of restaurants opens its first central Indiana location, it will sometimes find its way onto the IBJ Dining review lineup. When one opens a second or third, well, those are usually ignored here.

But I’ll make an exception with Granite City (49 W. Maryland St., 887-1874). The Minnesota-based string of eateries already has an anchor location near Interstate 465 and Meridian Street on the north side. Now, though, it has boldly gone where far too many restaurants have failed before—into a certain ground-floor space at Circle Centre.

ae-dining-apb-granitecity-15col.jpg The latest location for the Granite City chain: a Circle Centre dining trouble spot. Above, the meatloaf and mashed potatoes make a filling lunch. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

Will Granite City outlive its ill-fated predecessors? The odds have improved dramatically with the expansion of the space to include an entrance on Illinois Street. Finding whatever restaurant was here used to be largely accidental. But, with frontage now sandwiched between P.F. Chang’s and Ruth’s Chris, the newcomer feels like part of the neighborhood.

Speaking of sandwiches, I wish I could be more positive about the GC Classic Cheeseburger ($6.95 at lunch, including a side). Better burgers are available at a number of downtown spots, although the price isn’t bad. The Meatloaf Sandwich ($9.95) was better. It was hearty, lightly barbecue-sauced and sided with a substantial portion of dense, skin-included, garlic mashed potatoes.

My strongest memory of a meal at the north-side Granite City was the Idaho Nachos appetizer ($10.95). And while downtowners have a different menu, it was good to see these make the transition intact. Fresh kettle chips are covered in Colby-Jack cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, queso blanco and green onion. Remarkably, they maintain their crispness. Usually, there’s bacon, too. But while we asked for ours on the side (in deference to a vegetarian among us), it never arrived.

For an alternative appetizer, I can also recommend the Northern Cheddar & Ale Soup (pricy at $4.59/cup, knocked down to $3.79 if added to a lunch entrée), a creamy bit of simplicity simmered with Northern Lager. And while fish tacos can now be caught just about anywhere, Granite City’s Crispy Shrimp Taco Trio ($13.95) gave its version an Asian glaze and a tasty Santa Fe cream sauce.

I returned to sample the flatbreads, a key element on the menu that I didn’t have room for on the prior visit. While the Classic Pepperoni ($9.95), with its thinly sliced discs, wouldn’t warrant a revisit (and arrived cold), I’d happily head back for the Maple Pepper Bacon and Tomato Flatbread ($11.95), where the chewy shards of pork and the garlic-aioli-brushed crust found flavorful common ground with the rest of the toppings.

There’s always a honeymoon period with new lunch spots downtown, but Granite City’s army of servers seemed comfortable handling the large crowds and making amends for mistakes. If you don’t want to deal with your fellow patrons, or if you have a large party, the new space also has three private dining rooms.

Plus, there’s now outdoor patio seating—notable for a location that never had an outdoor face at all.

—Lou Harry


Third in a month-long series of new mall restaurant reviews.

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