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The story on West Side


West Side - John BradyJohn Brady, Photo Editor

Most Grinnellians are undoubtedly familiar with the multitude of restaurants within walking distance of the campus. Names like Prairie Canary, Chuong Garden, A&M Cafe and Pagliai’s Pizza are well-known and frequented by students. But the town also has eateries a bit farther away from the College. This week, the S&B sent our Photo Editor, John Brady, to investigate the West Side Family Restaurant, and find out what the cuisine is like on the far side of town.

Service: The service at West Side is well suited for its type and size of dining establishment. Our food came out quickly and our server checked in on us throughout the meal to make sure we were happy. She did seem a bit stressed and hurried, but of course that doesn’t speak for other servers or other dining experiences. Our ticket was given to us with our dessert, so when we finished we were able to quickly pay at the counter and leave.

Ambience: I was really impressed with West Side’s interior. It was bright and airy and felt quite inviting when we first came through the door. The frosted glass between booths was nice. The walls were freshly painted and clean and modern accents adorned the walls, salad bar and bathrooms. I was disappointed that there was no background music of any kind (a common gripe of mine) even though it was packed with enthusiastically loud diners. When compared to the more run-down restaurants in town like A&M, Frontier and Chuong Garden, I really have to appreciate the pride the owners take in keeping West Side presentable and appealing.

Food: For our first visit to West Side, we wanted to try an appetizer. Thankfully an appetizer sampler is offered, which allowed us to choose three of the eight options. We opted for jalapeño potato cheese bites, corn nuggets and pickle chips.

The corn nuggets were by far the standout portion of the sampler. A single bite blends the crispy texture of the golden brown batter shell with its creamy, semi-sweet contents. While this was my first time trying corn nuggets, I can’t imagine a better execution.

West Side - John Brady

In comparison, the jalapeño potato cheese bites were a little underwhelming. The cheese and potatoes were fine, but the levels of flavor and kick we expected just weren’t there.

The pickle chips were not too bad! I recall Dari Barn’s rendition to contain slightly thicker dill pickle slices that gives each piece more substance, but West Side’s version was passable.

Our server suggested the half-order would be sufficient for two, and after seeing the appetizer we were definitely satisfied with the quantity. In fact, we still had a few bites left when our food came out!

I ordered a pulled chicken melt as my entrée and my dining partner ordered the clam strips. The chicken melt consists of smoked pulled chicken and melted pepper jack cheese encased by generously thick slices of Texas toast. It came out piping hot, with lettuce, pickles, onions and barbeque sauce on the side. Some regions of the bread were slightly soggy, which unfortunately voided any crunchy texture when I bit into those areas. More cheese would have also been appreciated, but the sandwich was pretty good way it was.

Meanwhile, the clam strip entree left much to be desired. It came with a potato side (we chose hash browns) and a free trip to the salad bar, but even with that added value over the melt it failed to meet expectations. The “clam” resembled rubber more than an edible, delectable seafood. It was dry, tough and tasteless, with the breading packing more of a punch than the clam it contained. The hash browns were thankfully slightly better, but still were somewhat tragic. Rather than having a nicely browned top and bottom, the potatoes were roasted brown-black, well past the point of retaining flavor or moisture. That being said, the center of the hash brown was unaffected by the incinerator in the kitchen and were perfectly done. It’s too bad that only a third of the potatoes were palatable, though.

West Side - John Brady

We finished off our lunch at West Side with a delicious strawberry shortcake dessert to share. A generous dollop of whipped cream perched on delightfully fluffy, flakey biscuits drenched in strawberries and their juices. The strawberries were a little mushy and almost definitely were frozen and the juice probably came out of the same freezer bag, but they nonetheless delivered just the right amount of sweetness to the dish.

Price: The amount and quality of food doesn’t particularly justify the price, in my opinion. An 8-dollar sandwich should come with a side and a 12-dollar entrée (the cheapest of the seafood options) should be edible, even in landlocked Iowa. However, the appetizer and dessert, 8 and 3 dollars respectively, were well worth the price. A 40-dollar meal at most of the other restaurants in town would at least result in a small box of leftovers, where this left us none.

Recommendation: If you like bright and clean restaurants serving decent American food, West Side is the place for you. It isn’t worth the 1+ mile walk from campus, but if you have a ride, the corn nuggets, melts and other menu items are worth trying.

—Photos by John Brady.

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