A lot of things have changed at Downriver Grill over the last few years, though the heart of it is what it always have been: not a particularly exciting restaurant, but not a bad one either.
Actually, in all fairness I do think the food has improved quite a bit since our last try.
We visited Downriver Grill fashionably early during Restaurant Week, and the blue hairs -- our brethren -- were out in force. The line pretty much went out the door, so we settled for the bar seating. Really, that's never a bad way to go if you want to skip the waiting game.
We already talked about the mac and cheese, but as a reminder: It was good, and the inclusion of butternut squash was just a little bit different. Not bad at all.
The three course Restaurant Week menu didn't really knock our socks off as far as creativity went, but the food was still solid. A mixed green salad with beets and goat cheese might be a Spokane standby, but hey, that doesn't mean it's bad. They didn't drench it in vinaigrette or anything, so that's a step up from how we have had it served other places.
The steak, too, was pretty much what one would expect: Flat iron, served with vegetables, potato gratin, in a demi glaze. Not mind blowing, but good. The steak was served perfectly to order, and the flavors were well balanced.
Finally, the tiramisu. We're pretty picky as far as that desert goes, and were somewhat surprised how good Downriver's take on it was. Not too boozy, yet it still gave a nice rum fueled kick. The mascarpone mousse was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Getting the balance of the tiramisu down is not easy, but Dowriver really managed to do it well.
Food aside, the location features some nice, if somewhat generic, interiors, and the service is friendly. There is a handful of taps, and while some are reserved for the usual suspects, there is also a few good ones to pick from.
Downriver Grill still isn't that exciting, then, but they do what they do well. You might claim the Restaurant Week menu was just them playing it safe, but the actual menu echoes those dishes pretty accurately.
Do give them a shot, even if you previously have found them to be so-so. We wouldn't walk through snow to try them again, but would probably brave a decent downpour. Sometimes you want more of a safe menu, and Downriver does that just fine.
Original February 23rd, 2011 review
I'll admit to torn feelings over Downriver Grill.
There are plenty of things to like here. The atmosphere is good. Not a bad beer and wine selection. Very friendly service. In fact, the spot could be recommended, at least to a degree, on that alone.
It's just the food is so frustratingly... dull. This spot is run by the people behind Flying Goat, a pizza place that certainly takes some interesting twists with its pies, and in that sense I just expect more.
Not that my lamb sandwich was bad per se, just... dull. The meat was underseasoned and the garlic sauce, a take on tzatziki, just added to the substance, not the flavor. There actually was garlic in it -- anyone smelling my breath the next day could testify to that -- so I don't quite get it. Did they use complex techniques to hide the flavors? Lord knows.
I just expect so much more from Downriver Grill. As it stands, head across the street to the Flying Goat and see if they have tables available. You owe yourself that.
Vote for Downriver Grill: It’s your civic duty!