Greenhouse Grill sprouts in downtown Fairfield
The bright yellow facade is a magnet for passing eyes. But the food is designed to get people inside -- and coming back.
That's the goal of the Greenhouse Grill, 12 Unquowa Place, which had a soft opening a few weeks ago, but officially kicked things off last Friday.
"We've had a lot of people come back a number of times," said restaurant manager Sian Gaetano. "Someone told me it was so good he shed a tear over the Arctic char."
General manager and executive chef James Grace describes the new restaurant as "a combination of a traditional steakhouse and creative American cuisine."
One local who assumed the Greenhouse Grill might be a vegan enclave has been missing out on its meat entrees -- all-natural heritage pork chop, dry aged rib eye steak and grilled veal chop, to name a few. The flavors are accentuated by fresh herbs grown in suspended beds above customers' heads in the restaurant's greenhouse.
Talk about doing it fresh and local. The chefs don't even have to leave the restaurant to pick some rosemary, thyme, basil, lemon balm and pineapple sage, among other herbs, to add to their dishes.
Grace brings about 35 years of kitchen experience to the Greenhouse Grill. He last worked for the Loew's Regency Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City. Being the boss, instead of answering to one, is a new experience for him.
While he's done away with the commute, his work days are not shorter. "I've replaced commuting hours with actual on-premises hours," he said.
Grace's skills aren't limited to the kitchen however. He and his brother Tim -- each has a contractor's license -- renovated the new restaurant, a site the previously housed another eatery, Sarabande.
"We did all the carpentry and half of the masonry," Grace said.
The Greenhouse Grill, besides the greenhouse and the seemingly endless wine list -- allowing customers to buy an assortment of wines by the glass -- has an expansive schedule of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Grace and his brother, when they were "actively prospecting" for a restaurant site, found that many establishments close between 2 and 5 p.m. and wrap up dinner service around quarter to 9. If someone wanted an early dinner at 5 p.m., they were out of luck. If they wanted a late dinner, forget about it.
Grace believes the Greenhouse Grill, with its 11-to-11 schedule can offer something other establishments have not been able to. "You'll always be able to get a full meal here when you come in," he said.
He added it menu is also different from the norm, as Fairfield has many Italian, Asian and some French-focused restaurants, but nothing he said that's comparable to the fare at the Greenhouse Grill.
The most expensive items on the menu are the dry aged rib eye steak, dry aged NY strip steak and grilled veal chop, all $28. On the less-expensive end, priced at either $9 or $11, is the eight-ounce Niman Ranch all-natural burger, the chili cheese burger, the bacon cheese burger , pizza prosciutto and the three-cheese pizza.
Desserts, most of which are priced at $7, include stone fruit and apple clafoutis, pistachio-crusted cheesecake, rum-and-raisin and chocolate bread pudding, chocolate espresso cake and panna cotta. The dessert menu also suggests specific wines and ports to accompany a sweet treat.
Grace said his goal is to provide a comfortable place with excellent food "and for us to feel like we're an important part of the neighborhood." Down the line, Grace would love for his staff to grow comfortable enough in their roles to allow him to take time from the restaurant to visit the region's farms in search of fresh local ingredients.
He has high hopes for his restaurant, and feels the recent influx of other quality establishments is forging Fairfield's reputation as a food destination. While many Connecticut residents often take the train to New York City for entertainment and dining, Grace believes the Fairfield restaurant scene is "growing to the point where people will be coming up from the city."
And Grace hopes his new place will help spur some of that northbound traffic.