GENEVA – A fresh addition to Geneva's Third Street dining scene is The Grandstander, a surprising hybrid that unites the pleasures of a sports bar with an adventurous menu.
On a late Sunday afternoon, we ventured inside and found a contemporary space with a sleek, industrial-chic vibe set off by white, tiled walls. Wood adds a warm tone with well-spaced high-tops, a low banquette and tables for seating.
The focal point is the bar offering about 18 beers on tap, with dozens of bottled brews available. A clever visual for the drafts is the row of back-lit mason jars filled with beers whose sliding color scale gives the palate a heads-up and will make stout enthusiasts smile.
While beers are center stage, The Grandstander also has a thoughtful collection of wines and cocktails.
As we dined, flat-screens were tuned to football, with subdued audio. The modern chandeliers were turned low, which not only sharpened the game viewing, but lent a romantic mood. And given the menu's appeal, The Grandstander is likely to draw beyond sports fans and double as a date-night option.
Unfurled on a giant paper roll along the back wall is the day's special. Studying the globally influenced menu, we were torn between the handmade foie duck sausage with cherry compote, bleu cheese and red onion; a lobster corn dog appetizer; hot smoked chicken; root vegetable curry; roasted organic salmon; Cubano sandwich; and a salad of arugula and Serrano ham.
We opted to open with the Peruvian lamb chop appetizer. A generous trio of tender, juicy chops arrived, with a slight kick from the aji amarillo, a yellow pepper sauce, accompanied by a house specialty, the pickled slaw.
We were wowed by the chops, a rich and hearty appetizer, and are already planning to build another meal around them. The slaw is subtle and outstanding.
My dining companion selected the rigatoni with pork ragu, which was infused with wonderful spices paired with basil, tomato and pecorino cheese.
I chose The Grandstander burger, and was treated to a flavorful and lean patty of grass-fed beef that's organic and hormone-free. The dish paid homage to an American classic with wonderfully crisp iceberg lettuce, tomato, American cheese and "secret sauce," plus caramelized onions and pickle slices that were a treat unto themselves. The large portion provided a delicious lunch the next day.
The burger was accompanied by superlative fries, cooked perfectly and enhanced by herbs.
We couldn't resist trying the roasted cauliflower side dish, prepared with pistachio pesto and preserved lemon and mint. It was a nice twist on an often bland vegetable, and arrived, like my fries, in a mini casserole dish that kept it warm throughout the meal.
The heat-retaining serving dishes were just one of the added touches. Our silverware was changed between courses, and placed atop cutlery rests to keep it off the table surface. Our server was attentive, kept water glasses filled, and knowledgeably helped us navigate the beverage and food menus. An added convenience at the gastropub's entrance that windswept people will appreciate is the handy mirror in the enclosed foyer.
After our meal, we reluctantly left the warm ambiance and ventured back into the wintry chill, with plans to return soon.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
If you go
What: The Grandstander
Where: 507 S. Third St., Geneva
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday
More info: www.facebook.com/GrandstanderGeneva, 331-248-0919