Tomorrow, another restaurant is officially open for business in Schaumburg, a hub of shopping and dining in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. This will be the 32nd location of Granite City Food and Brewery, the fifth in Illinois, and it’s easy to see why they’re continuing to grow as a chain.
I was invited last week to a special blogger preview of the restaurant, where we were treated to tastes of many of the featured items on the menu, as well as going on a brewery tour because yes, they do actually brew onsite. In fact, they offer 14 special seasonal beers each year with a limited run – once they’re gone, they’re gone – in addition to their own brews that they make year round.
Granite City Food and Brewery (I love that they put the food first in the name, and the taste proves that there’s a reason for that) doesn’t just offer the beer in the restaurant. If you find something you like, especially one of the seasonal brews, you can purchase a growler and bring it home. The growlers come in a gorgeous brown glass with a strong seal ($29) or an insulated metal that will keep your beer cold if you’re traveling ($49). Both growlers include the first fill, and subsequent fills are $15.
The main attraction for me, however, was the food. With an $8.95 pricepoint for lunch 11am to 4pm weekdays, it’s an affordable destination. The options include some of the choices we had tried like the BBQ chicken flatbread, as well as their GC mac and cheese, a pulled pork sandwich, a buffalo chicken wrap, and more. Each lunch also comes with a side like the cheddar and ale soup, the Asian salad (amazing), kettle chips, and more.
We had the joy of sampling several of their dishes from each course, and I cannot even start to pick a favorite. The ahi tuna wontons were perfectly crispy wontons topped with a wasabi avocado mix and a thin slice of seared ahi tuna. The glazed drizzled over the tuna added the perfect sweet note, and I could have eaten those all day.
The Asian glazed shrimp were amazing, huge shrimp with the tail on, tossed in a spicy Asian sauce that gave a perfect bite to the sweet shrimp. The Asian flavored green beans were a great contrast and helped cut the heat a little, as well.
The flatbreads were another favorite. Granite City Food and Brewery offers six different flatbreads – buffalo chicken, maple pepper bacon and tomato (that was gone before I was able to try a piece), BBQ chicken, peperoni, sausage and mushroom, margherita, and proscuitto olive. The margherita was delicious with the chiffonade of fresh basil adorning the beautiful tomato slices, and the balsamic glaze that was drizzled on top was the perfect complement – and something I may be stealing for my own pizzas at home.
The salad choice is almost as difficult as the appetizers. We were served the Asian chicken salad, blackened salmon salad, bruschetta salad, and the steak salad. There are also caesar, wedge, and house salads available. I heard the salmon salad was good, but again it disappeared before I tried any. The steak salad had a tangy tomato and onion relish, as well as being garnished not just with bleu cheese but also Parmesan. The steak on the salad was juicy and flavorful, and it would easily have made a meal on its own.
The Asian chicken salad, however, stole the show. The next time I eat at Granite City Food and Brewery, I may be ordering this for my entire meal. The presentation alone is gorgeous. I loved the huge mound of salad, and the chicken is perfect. It is moist and tender, and it comes in surprisingly large slices. You can tell that they are cut off an actual chicken breast and not just pieces prepped ahead of time and thrown in the salad. The sesami lime dressing and Szechwan peanut sauce were the perfect combination, and my mouth is watering just thinking about this tower of crispy cabbage and other vegetables.
As we moved on to the entrees, the presentation and flavors continued to wow us. The braised bison short ribs absolutely melted off the bone. There was no knife required to enjoy them, and the horseradish mashed potatoes were a great complement to the rich and hearty bison ribs, and the broccolini was crisp tender and perfectly seasoned.
We also enjoyed the bone-in ribeye, a 21 ounce marvel that is paired with Parmesan potato slices and broccolini. The jumbo sea scallops were another fan favorite with the most tender scallops I’ve enjoyed in years. They are so fresh you can almost taste the sea, and they are served on mushroom risotto with wilted spinach between each scallop and the risotto.
But again, my favorite I think had to be the fish. The Ponzu glazed salmon was a lightly sweet fish that had a crispy crust below perfectly cooked salmon. The Ponzu sauce also coated the stir fried vegetables that accompanied the dish, and the sticky rice was perfectly sweet to complement the rest of the dish. It was beautifully served, and it tasted as special as it looked.
While the dessert menu was somewhat smaller than the choices offered for starters and main courses, the flavors did not disappoint. They are all made in house, with the exception of the raspberry sorbet. The trio of desserts – for $5.95, make sure you save room – included all my favorites. We enjoyed a vanilla bean creme brulee that was absolute perfection. The brownie with vanilla ice cream was served hot and in the dish it was cooked in, and the raspberry sorbet was refreshing and full of fruity flavor. You could also have chosen a cookie sundae or fresh fruit cobbler to round out your mini dessert trio, but I was thrilled with the options we enjoyed.
There is also a berry cheesecake, and a dense and rich chocolate cake that had a whiskey butter sauce served alongside. I could have eaten just the whiskey butter sauce, but I held back and the caramel tang of the sauce worked well with the chocolate. But if I were not going to order the dessert trio (and who are we kidding? I am), I would go for the deep dish chocolate cookie. I wouldn’t describe it as deep dish, as ours was fairly thin, but the flavor was not at all lacking. Served fresh and hot in a cast iron pan, the vanilla ice cream and caramel drizzle bring out the kid in anyone.
As a mom, I was happy to note that there is also a kids’ menu available that includes the traditional mac and cheese, pizza, and burger options but also things like chicken quesadillas and grilled salmon, things I know the wee one enjoy and things that I do my best to encourage them to eat.
Granite City Food and Brewery also offers gluten free options and has an entire gluten free menu available. While they aren’t a certified gluten free facility, they can work with allergies. Since they make everything onsite except for the sorbets and the bread (from Turano), they know every ingredient and can work with you to handle your dietary restrictions.
I haven’t even mentioned the cocktails, but trust me, they’re worth mentioning. In addition to the beer that Granite City Food and Brewery makes onsite, there are wines and specialty cocktails available to suit just about any palate from the fun and sweet Flying Monkey (vodka, peach and strawberry schnapps, strawberry puree, and lemonade) to mojitos and margaritas to Jack’s honey bee (Jack Daniel’s, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup) to martinis.
Though some of the menu items are specific to the Schaumburg location at the moment, the majority of the menu is similar across the other locations in the midwest. There are also happy hour specials (food and cocktails) every day. Whether you’re heading there for a family dinner, unwinding after a long day of work with your friends, or enjoying their Sunday brunch (9am to 2pm), I can’t imagine how you would be disappointed at Granite City Food and Brewery.