Sunday, November 24, 2013

LOCAL REVIEW: The Charcoal Grill & Rotisserie of Kenosha

While going for a shopping spree with my mother and grandmother during the weekend, Mom suggested we three should hit up the Charcoal Grill in town for lunch. I'd never been there before- or to any Charcoal Grill for that matter -so I figured, "First time- makes for a good blog post!"
Charcoal Grill has more than one location, but it's not a national chain either. You'll pretty much only find these restaurants in Wisconsin. I didn't know much about this place going in, but I could tell it was gonna have a few traits of the typical "grill" restaurant that's moderately successful but not incredibly successful- Basically, these types of joints have big portions for fair prices, a diverse menu, a sports theme, family-friendly dining, a cozy atmosphere, plenty of T.V's and specials for game day, and would rather focus on crowd-pleasing food than healthy food. I guess we'll see how many of these traits Charcoal Grill exhibits.


The Charcoal Grill in Kenosha had a very clean interior and was very eye-appealing. I liked the look of the place a lot. There's one wall made completely out of spotless glass, which lets a lot of light in. We all sat down in a booth next to this wall. Above us was a canoe hanging from the ceiling, used for decoration of course. The restaurant had well-cleaned wood floors and seating areas, and a big chalkboard that wrapped around a low-hanging wall in the center that displayed each day's specials. Overall, it was a very nice place to eat, visually speaking. Saying that reminds me of that one scene from Spongebob...
Food... Water... Atmosphereeee...
But as Mr. Krabs says, "No one goes to a restaurant for atomsphere. They go for food!" And while he may be a money-grubbing anthromorphic crustecean, he does own a restaurant loved and adored throughout the whole town of Bikini Bottom. So let's not jump to any conclusions with the interior.
Charcoal Grill's menu was fairly extensive and diverse, just as one might figure- They've got dinners like rotisserie, pork ribs, and steak like they should, but also offer several international foods like pizza, fajitas, and stir fries. Like I said, moderately successful restaurants like these look to please as many people as possible, so they extend the range of options on their menu. In addition, Charcoal Grill serves sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and paninis, and has an all-you-can-eat brunch on Sunday mornings until two in the afternoon. Their entire menu is also available for carry-out. You can check out the rest of the options here.
Our waitress- She was... welllllll, she wasn't rude, but she wasn't entirely friendly either. She seemed stressed. Which is funny, considering there weren't all that many people at the restaurant during the time, so what's to be immediately stressed about? I suppose there are plenty of events outside of work that cause stress, but I think the job of a waitress is to hide this away and put on a happy face for your customers, at least until you get off work. I felt a bit bad when I asked our server to switch my pulled pork sandwich for a grilled buffalo chicken instead, but thankfully the guys in back hadn't started cooking my order yet, so all was good. Anyway, she seemed to try hard to be cheerful- our waitress -but she just seemed plain out of it. When she was taking away our plates, my grandmother had a small pile of chips left on hers, and the waitress asked if we were all done with them. My mom smiled and said, "One more," and after popping a chip in her mouth jokingly  afterwards,  "Maybe another..." and pulled her arm towards and away from the plate, back and forth, as if she was debating what to do. I mean, it was CLEARLY a joke, but the waitress looked confused and asked if my mother WAS done or not. We all had to clarify to her, "It was a joke," and she gave us a weak smile as she took away our plates. Long story short, the service could've been better, at least in my experience.
For lunch, I ordered the buffalo chicken sandwich. For $7.99, you get your choice of chicken on a bun with a side of fries or chips (I was able to substitute mine for veggies), and a side of bleu cheese dressing. You also get to take a trip to Charcoal Grill's "Fixin' Bar."
The food came to us surprisingly fast, but the restaurant wasn't very busy at the time, so that could have had a hand in the quick preparation time. The grilled chicken served on my sandwich was of HUGE proportions- it couldn't even fit on the bun. The chicken was covered in a thin, bright red Buffalo sauce. The bread it came on was your standard white bun- not unlike anything you could pick up at Walmart. The portion of green beans and carrots served on the side was also very big.
Before I ate my sandwich, I took a trip to the "Fixin' Bar", which was definitely my favorite part of lunch. Like the title might suggest, the Fixin' Bar is like a salad station, but with onions and tomato slices and pickles and jalapenos- all things to put on top of your sandwich. All I wanted to put on my sandwich was some onion, but I was still very much impressed with Charcoal Grill's selection. There was also a multitude of sauces and condiments to choose from, but since I already had all that Buffalo sauce, I opted out of those. Anyway, the Fixin' Bar was really cool for a options geek like me.
While the topping bar was fun, I must say my actual lunch was far more sub-par. First, I'll start with the carrots and green beans- Those, much to my surprise, were sauteed in butter. That's not particularly a bad thing, since carrots and green beans are low enough in calories to be sauteed in some fat once and again- and it had been forever since I'd had ANY sauteed veggies. But boy, there was a lot of butter. There had to have been- the carrots were flimsy and soft, and I bet its usually difficult to get them that way unless you cook them for a long time, or use a lot of butter. I mean, the part of the plate the veggies had been sitting on was greasy from all the butter. I enjoyed the taste of the carrots and green bean combo, but I think that's just because I hadn't had any buttered vegetables in a very long time. Seriously, when someone asks you if they can substitute their fries for veggies, dontcha' think that maaaybe they want something healthy? Our waitress could have at least said something about their vegetables being sauteed. Just because its vegetables doesn't mean its healthy! That'd be like saying zucchini bread or creamed spinach is healthy, just because THEY'RE made with veggies too.
As for my sandwich, it was definitely meh. The chicken was pretty bland, even with the Buffalo sauce, which wasn't even all that flavorful, let alone spicy. Halfway through the chicken I actually had to start drowning it with ketchup just to get some decent taste out of it. The bun was also very meh. It wasn't some homemade bun, or even a fancy storebought bun- it was like a white hamburger bun you can get anywhere. It held no special flavor, except for all the butter that was clearly used on it. It was so buttery, it tasted like garlic bread without the garlic. Some butter is good, but too much is way too salty and frankly unappealing, even if you're a healthy eater or not.
Any restaurant can butter up their food and pass that off as good food- But a great restaurant can make their meals flavorful without having to resort to using a whole lot of butters or oils to make their food taste appetizing. Charcoal Grill is definitely in the former category. The flavor of the bun and veggies I was served was primarily butter, and the grilled chicken, which was not cooked with much butter, if any at all, was terribly unflavorful. I'm glad I didn't order the fajitas because those things would probably be drowning in cooking oil. I bet you if Charcoal Grill used less butter in their meals, their quality of flavor would drop immensely. Not like I'm shunning butter, or Charcoal Grill for using it, but I get the feeling they're food would fall flat without the use of it. There are plenty of other restaurants out there with better food: food that has an immense amount of flavor without using a whole bunch of added fats to mask up a taste that isn't even there. The parts of my meal that even did use butter didn't have much of a flavor to em', and that's saying something. If my sandwich was any example of how the rest of the food at Charcoal Grill is, then I feel like most of their meals get by with the flavor of cooking oils and added fats. Anyone can add butter to food and have it taste good. Heck, I could go do it at home! For absolutely free!
Anyway, while I appreciated Charcoal Grill's nice interior and cool Fixin' Bar, I was not at all impressed by the service, or most importantly, the food. It was either way too buttery or way too bland. I can make better food than anything I ate there without even using a whole bunch of butter to make up for the fact what I'm eating has little to no taste. I definitely would've gone somewhere else for lunch, but I guess that's why we try new things, you know? I probably would've ended up going to Charcoal Grill sometime in my life, so at least I went when I was young enough and will know for the rest of my life that it's not all that special and I needn't waste my time on it.
I'd give the Charcoal Grill & Rotisserie a 4.5/10.

Have YOU ever been to the Charcoal Grill? What did YOU think?

Till' then, this has been RiRi ri-porting!

The Charcoal Grill and Rotisserie on Urbanspoon
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