Saturday, November 12, 2005

Kingston Taphouse and Grill, Downtown

The Kingston Taphouse and Grill (755 Richards, between Georgia and Robson) is a straightforward bar and grill, complete with pool tables and darts in the basement for that bar hang-out feel, but here's why it appeals to me - the place actually has decent food, and the space feels nice and clean. It's an obvious choice for a casual group get-together. Here's a place that could appeal to those "manly" men who like a pub atmosphere, but also someone like me who has some reasonably high standards for food and cleanliness. It's at a great location - just a couple blocks from Granville skytrain station, and has lots of space, including a patio. The upstairs seemed to have a high energy, and is loud and busy, especially during hockey games, which they project on a huge screen. The patio is heated, and looks nice from what I could see, with lots of greenery.

The best thing I've had there is the onion rings, served stacked up in a tower on their own onion ring holder. They were crunchy, breaded, not greasy, and the onion actually stayed inside the coating nicely when I bit down on them. Oh, how I hate it when a limp, slimy onion slice slides out of its batter. Rest easy, that doesn't happen here. I had the half sandwich and soup ($8.99) for a lunch. The daily soup was butternut squash soup with half shrimp club (with bacon). Neither of these two items were exceptional, but the soup was good, and it was a nice solid lunch. I probably won't order the sandwich again, because I wasn't too fond of the ciabatta type bun, but there are plenty of other things on the menu to try. The ice tea and soda kept flowing, and we had great, friendly service. In fact, everyone I encountered there on my two visits was friendly, and warm, which is maybe the best reason to go back. Burgers ($9.99) are served with both sea-salted fries (just a few) and a little Caesar salad. I've had their flat iron steak sandwich ($12.99). The meat was very tender and coated in a very sweet glaze, and topped with deep-fried onions, both of which I liked, but the gorgonzola flavour promised in or on the bread was barely there. It was a nice sandwich though. They had one of their cocktails on special that night, a great deal and yummy too.

The open kitchen is fun to watch. They seemed to have everything under control, since the staff were amusing each other in between orders coming in. I can't get the image of one of them out of my head - entertaining the rest with his adorable crab imitation (that's crab imitation, not imitation crab): kitchen tongs in both hands up in the air, clacking like castanets, and frenetically scuttling from side to side. Everything's charmingly on display in an open kitchen. The Kingston is owned by the Spectra Group, which also runs other casual dining restaurants such as the Boathouses and the Macaroni Grill. It makes sense that they would have the service and the large group atmosphere thing downpat. Yes, it feels a bit like being Mike Teevee, shrunken down and stuck into a television beer commercial bar, but sometimes you might be looking for just that. Or you're with a group who's looking for that white-boy-beer-commercial-feel, and when that happens, there's no reason to starve.

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