Our Gourmet: A preview of what's coming to the cityAugust 15. 2018 12:16PM
110 Grill Stratham19 Portsmouth Ave., Stratham; 777-5110; https://www.110grill.com/locations/stratham-nh/
Hours: Sunday-Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Cuisine: Modern American.
Pricing: Appetizers, $8-$15; salads, $8-$18; sandwiches/burgers, $12-$14.50; entrees, $16.50-$32.
Scores for 110 Grille
Constantly on the lookout for new dining options, a story in the Union Leader’s Business section touting the impending opening of a 110 Grill on Manchester’s Elm Street recently caught our eye.
So, on a recent Sunday, having spent a dreary weekend in Maine and having waited for the weekend I-95 traffic to abate, we stopped at the 110 Grill in Stratham to see what we can expect when the Manchester location opens up next month.
Starting with a single location in Chelmsford, Mass., in 2014, the 110 Grill brand — striving for “Modern American Cuisine in a Trendy Casual Atmosphere” — has expanded rapidly into a regional chain.
There are 15 locations, including Nashua, Rochester and Stratham, with the rest scattered mostly across Massachusetts. In addition to Manchester, 110 Grill is slated to open in West Lebanon in late 2018 and in another six spots by early 2019.
A Gourmet cohort reviewed the Nashua location in 2015, pointing out “The look is clean and classy, but rather generic.”
Based on descriptions in that review, we’d agree. The Stratham layout appears to mirror that in Nashua and we’ll be curious to see if Manchester will look the same.
Entering 110 Grill, you face a huge, oval bar with TVs and 16 taps, surrounded by hightops and booths overlooking an open-concept kitchen. There’s a separate dining room to the side. Our party of three weary travelers was seated there, out of the way, perhaps because we looked more casual than upscale this evening.
Our view was limited, but we found the tan walls, red padded chairs and dark wood tables soothing. Windows overlooked an outdoor fire pit, which was closed this drizzly night.
As in 2015 in Nashua, service was a bit slow, with a waiter bringing menus, then disappearing.
A waitress came almost 10 minutes later to take drink orders. “Beered” out from our weekend away, Our Gourmet (OG) and Weary Traveler One (WT1) ordered a Coke and Diet Coke ($2.75). Weary Traveler Two (WT2) ordered an iced tea ($2.75). Our drinks came without straws, perhaps a nod to the anti-plastic straw craze sweeping the nation. It felt weird to sip straight from the glass.
Our Gourmet’s companions started with half-size salads. WT1 ordered a house salad and WT2 opted for a seasonal salad (both $4 because they were added on to an entree order).
Full-size salads, which range in price from $8 to $18 (with additional protein options available) are meant to be meals.
These half salads were plenty big. WT1 found his to be a fairly ordinary house salad, but WT2 was impressed with his seasonal version. Fresh greens and arugula were tossed with diced Gala apples, red grapes and candied walnuts, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette and bits of feta and bacon. For the price, this was a bargain.
The menu is eclectic, and tries to offer a little something for everybody.
There are burgers, sandwiches and flatbreads. Entrees run the gamut from chicken to fish to pasta to pulled pork and high-end steaks. Given the weather, OG sought something comforting and tried the 110 Meatloaf ($17).
We found it adequate but missing the wow factor, especially at this price point. Touted as a mix of beef, pork and veal, we couldn’t discern any distinctiveness, except for a preponderance of filler.
The loaf — more of a mound than a slice — was a bit salty. A promise of “smoky” glaze was largely unfulfilled, overpowered by a Sriracha ketchup swirled over the entire meal, but without the Sriracha kick. It tasted more like barbecue sauce.
Mashed potatoes served as a base layer were very good — creamy and lightly tinged with garlic. Delicate onion rings were a good idea, but the thinness of the onion meant its sweetness was lost under the fried coating and ketchup drizzle. Their crispness quickly faded. Steamed broccoli on the side was basic and went largely untouched.
WT1 opted for Chicken Pesto Pasta ($16.50) and WT2 decided on Tagliatelle Bolognese ($17.50). WT1 gobbled his dish, easily the best of our night and consisted of seared chicken, roasted tomatoes and artichokes tossed with Cavatappi pasta and smothered with creamy pesto. Only a puddle of sauce remained when he was done.
We’d already finished a delicious plate of bread with softened garlic butter, or that puddle would have been sopped up, too.
WT2’s Bolognese left him puzzled and unimpressed. Tagliatelle was a perfect al dente but the sauce, usually a thick, hearty tomatoey, meaty concoction was far lighter here, almost devoid of tomato and loaded with diced carrots. Bits of beef, pork and veal were tender and tasty but small and undecipherable.
We found our meal solid, if not OMG good, with a few misfires that could leave budget-conscious diners annoyed. We realize also that even in a chain, experiences and kitchen talents can differ from location to location.
With its ambitious menu, it’s clear 110 Grill hopes to be a place you can go when you can’t agree where to go. It’s doing something right, evidenced by its expansion, and we’ll certainly give the Manchester entry a try when it opens.