Grain & Gristle
Everyone, especially single people, knows that dating is tricky business, and that it requires as much strategy as chess or long-term investing or dressing for the Oscars. Thus, many seasoned daters develop complex systems and benchmarks to minimize risk and determine whether to move dates to the next round. Of course, this can take a lot of time, coordinating, and running around to different locations all over the city, so in an effort to help, I have developed a simple, extremely efficient, and pretty much foolproof dating filter that can be conducted in the course of one city block and one afternoon. And no matter how it turns out, you’ll eat well and end the ordeal/triumph with a butterscotch pudding. Which at the very least guarantees you a lose-win. Here goes.
First, you make your way to the gastronomically-gifted corner of NE Prescott and 15th, and meet your date at Extracto coffeehouse. If your date does not try to order a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino, shares their pastry, and refrains from blatantly flirting with the barista, move onward to lunch at Pok Pok Noi. If your date lets you taste their passion fruit drinking vinegar (make sure they don’t have cold sores first), shares their Ike’s wings, and asks you at least three things about yourself, move on to 1856 bottle shop. If your date can spell Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier backwards, shares their Baird cherry cider, and only touches their smart phone to show you a picture of their bulldog and/or darling grand-mére and grand-pére who are French winemakers, congratulate them—they’ve made it to the last level, dinner at Grain & Gristle.
Once inside, after the requisite small talk about the attractive wood-centric design, exposed beams, clever signage and stunning polished maple bar, start with the Fressen pretzel and spicy mustard, pork rinds, house pickles and a cured meat board, move onward to a grilled romaine salad and Oregon bay shrimp with fried chickpeas, then get serious with salt cod fritters, the Moroccan beef sausage with bulgur, smoked beef with chow chow and cabbage, anything porky, and the mighty house burger (bonus points if your date insists on adding the optional cheddar, bacon and fried egg).
Use your discretion in suggesting the nightly “2-fer”, a very affordable dinner special for two that ranges from roast chicken to green garlic-stuffed pork belly roulade—if your date mentions that they broke up with their last paramour because they kept ordering the same main as them, it’s a no-no, but if they are already talking about you guys getting a tandem bike and Siamese Slanket, it’s probably a safe bet.
Chef Ben Meyer’s collaboration with co-owner Alex Ganum of Upright Brewing means you can wash everything down/upgrade your conversation skills/cope with something exceptional from the rotating taps, and as for dessert, I advocate firmly for the aforementioned butterscotch pudding with hazelnut brittle and chocolate crumb–at $5, it’s one of the city’s best dessert bangs for your buck, and ensures that even if your date doesn’t turn out to be The One, or within 25 years of the age they claimed to be, or sane, or even actually single, the evening isn’t a total bust.
Cuisine: New American
Executive Chef: Ben Meyer
Owner: Ben Meyer, Alex Ganum, Marcus Hoover
Atmosphere: Jolly gastropub-in-a-vintage-beer-crate feel, steady stream of neighborhood folk
Outdoor seating: Patio
Best Seat: Anywhere will do, or a seat at the bar if the bartender is extra good-looking
Noise Level: Normal to buzzy depending on occupancy
Dress Code: Casual, plaid encouraged (just kidding...sort of)
Bring the Kids: Yes
Bathrooms: Down the hall by the kitchen door
Parking: Street parking is free and easy to find on a side street
Cocktails: 9 house cocktails ($8), full bar (Grain & Gristle makes their own sweet vermouth, tonic, mineral water and syrups)
Beer: Rotating taps, Old German, hard ciders; Upright Brewing's Engelberg Pilsener is the house draft
Wine: Red, white, rosé and sparkly by the glass ($6-$12) and bottle ($26-$48)
Teetotalers: Coca Cola, house ginger ale, juice, Diet coke, iced tea, hot tea, house mineral water
Coffee: Extracto, obviously
Ideal Meal: Pretzel with mustard, pickle plate, pork rinds, deviled eggs, chop salad, burger with freedom fries, braised pork, 2-fer, butterscotch pudding
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Good for the following occasions: Date Night, Date Vetting Night, Dinner With Friends, Woodworking Club Meeting, Dining Solo, Burly Brunch