DINING: Granite City is a chain champion

will always make the case that Indianapolis doesn’t need any more chain or franchised restaurants. I
understand the
big-picture argument. I understand
the desire for a greater regional culinary identity and the wish for a more
adventurous restaurant clientele. To be honest, though, a good meal can temporarily dismantle my regional pride.

It happened, for instance, when I ate Idaho Nachos ($9.79), one of the signature dishes at Granite
City Food & Brewery (150 W. 96th St., 218-7185), a Minnesota-based concern that recently opened its
first central Indiana location.

The appetizer replaces standard tortilla chips with waffle-cut Idaho russet potatoes,
fried to just the right degree of crispness, and caps them with a well-balanced pile of melted Colby jack cheese, bacon bits,
diced tomatoes, sour cream and green onion. I expected the bottom dwellers to get soggy, but the last fry was as good as the
first thanks to a combination of proper presentation and hungry patrons. Outstanding bar grub.

We were tempted to order a second load, but progressed to other
parts of the menu, finding satisfaction there as well. The French Onion Soup and a Tomato Soup du Jour
($2.49 each) were both winning choices. In the former, the melted cheese roof covered a delicious beef
and wine stock with ample caramelized onions and toasted croutons.

We were temporarily disappointed by the Buffalo
Burger ($8.29) and the standard Hamburger (I tried the one from my son’s $5.49 kid’s meal) in part because of the dull ciabatta buns,
but the Southwestern Chicken Salad ($12.29) won us over with its fresh-tasting julienne-grilled chicken
breast, chopped cilantro and tequila lime vinaigrette dressing. Even better was the Chilled Sesame Shrimp
and Cucumber Salad ($12.49), well-populated with seafood and well-chosen companions, including cabbage,
snow peas, crisp wontons, diced red peppers and a wasabi cream.

No complaint, either, with the Chicken Salad Clubhouse
on Focaccia ($9.49), a two-hander packed with a well-seasoned mix
of roasted chicken breast, mayo, celery and scallions. The sandwich rounds off with bacon strips, roasted
garlic aioli, and sliced tomato.

A promising-sounding Big Cookie ($5.99) was a messy letdown, but
a hearty glass of Two Pull, a mix of the brewery’s Northern Light and Brother Benedict Bock beers ($.95 for a 20 ouncer) could
have forgiven a lot worse. As it stands, though, it just made me want to schedule a leisurely lunch meeting here-over beer
and an order of Idaho Nachos. Or two. •

First in a month-long series of restaurants that rock-or, at least, have rocks in their names.

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