The Grille on Laurel has the perfect patio for al fresco dining for our North Shore summer evenings.
Simply driving by The Grille on Laurel on a summer evening, a glimpse of their picturesque outdoor seating is enough to warrant a reservation. Comfortable all-weather armchairs gather around three flickering fire pits while massive umbrellas and tall propane patio heaters will keep the al fresco enjoyment up and running into early autumn.
We were met at the table by a basket of delicious house-made kettle chips. The crisp, subtly salted chips are an excellent declaration of intent by The Grille. Refined, curated cuisine wrapped in the trimmings of casual comfort food. Like the names of their menu items—a cheese board is called “Never Bored with Cheese,” a Cobb salad is a “Cobb Without the Corn,” and their BBQ chicken flatbread is called the “Austin City Limits.” Or the way the final bill arrives tucked in the pages of a book; ours was Everyone Loves Paris.
One of their newer starters is The North Shore, three mini brisket sandwiches. A petite white bun adds a fluffy sweetness to the deep, campfire molasses flavor of the slow roasted beef brisket combined with caramelized onions. They really lean into the BBQ flavor here, delivering a satisfying bite you can really sink your teeth into.
Next arrived the absolute highlight of our night, the Florence in the Spring flatbread appetizer. A thin layer of delectable pesto is spread across the soft flatbread crust with a buttery oven kissed crunch around the perimeter. They then pile on exceptionally fresh basil and tomato slices, melted slabs of rich mozzarella cheese, and the lightest touch with balsamic vinegar that adds the perfect tinge of tartness. I could have ordered three of these and called it a night.
Before moving into the entrées, we split a Miami Mandarin salad. Bright, colorful, and summery, this dish is an exercise in contrasts combining the organic sweetness of ripe mandarin orange slices, grapes, and strawberries grounded in the earthiness of fresh mixed greens, raw walnuts, creamy goat cheese, and a spritz of red cabbage, with a side of sweet vinaigrette dressing. It’s light and refreshing, and large enough to be an entrée.
Jimmy’s Famous Roasted Free Range Greek Chicken is a half chicken, roasted inside a crisp tasty skin until nicely tender and covered with zesty herbaceous seasoning. Every entrée comes with two sides, and the Roasted Red Potatoes carry hints of citrus and garlic, they’re covered in mouthwatering herbs and spices, and they play very nicely with the seasoning of the chicken. A glass of their Wente, California Cabernet Sauvignon is a nice pairing, its dark, dry tones coincide with the savory flavors on the plate.
Our favorite entrée of the night, however, was the Pacific Grouper. Mild and buttery, the flakey fish fillet is enrobed in a crunchy macadamia nut crust with a hint of citrus and an exquisite lemon butter sauce. As a side, we had their fork-tender Brussels Sprouts, tinged with a pleasant garlic flavor, and our waitress paired it with a glass of Pinot Grigio from Giocato, Italy for a nice crisp counterpoint.
For dessert, the menu suggests doubling down and getting two for $10. Their Flourless Chocolate Cake is deeply rich and mature, with the decadent creaminess of a thick fudge pudding. The Best Bread Pudding, as it’s named, talks a big game with a taste to match. It arrives oven warm, delivering hearty cinnamon and vanilla sweetness in a shallow pool of caramel sauce. We quickly decimated both and ended the evening with one of us scraping the last remnants of the chocolate sauce off one plate while the other did the same with the caramel sauce. Wonderful.
With craft cocktails rotating every month and their desire to experiment with the menu, there are plenty of reasons at The Grille on Laurel to keep people coming back. And that patio seating with the fire pits, just beautiful.
The Grille on Laurel is located at 181 E. Laurel Avenue in Lake Forest, 847-234-9660, thegrilleonlaurel.com.
There’s no better place to have a cocktail than around a fire pit on a breezy summer night, so we asked to try a couple of the most frequently requested concoctions from their rotating drinks menu.
New Amsterdam Vodka
PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
Channel your contemporary Carrie Bradshaw with this fruity, refreshing summer cocktail. Supremely sippable, bright, and beautifully balanced this cousin of the cosmo has a sweet foretaste and a citrus pucker on the follow through.
Bourbon-Blood Orange Blast
Knob Creek Rye
Blood Orange juice
Fresh mint leaves
The deep oak flavor of the bourbon takes on a muddled herb quality and a rough-hewn tonality with the full mint leaves soaking in the drink. A fireside beverage if ever there was one.