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The S&B shares its reaction to The Periodic Table

The menu, walls and decor of The Periodic Table are all chemistry-themed. Photo by Andrew Tucker.
The menu, walls and decor of The Periodic Table are all chemistry-themed. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

By Ben Mikek & Kelly Page

As late April snow showers continued to decrease the likelihood of May flowers, The S&B’s staff members Ben Mikek and Kelly Page, both ’21, walked the three blocks to The Periodic Table at Hotel Grinnell with one question in mind: is it worth it to make the short trek in order to use the coupons handed out to all Grinnell students earlier this spring?

The beginning of our experience set a relatively low bar. Upon our arrival, it was somewhat unclear where to sit. No staff came onto the scene until five minutes had passed. Nevertheless, we made the best of the time by observing the surroundings.

The Periodic Table, a restaurant situated inside Hotel Grinnell, is one of the newest restaurants in Grinnell. Its big theme is, for obvious reasons, chemistry, with chemical symbols painted on the walls and chemical diagrams on the drinks menu, which did eventually arrive. The decor, though, was a bit eclectic, including cow-themed chairs, a variety of board games nestled in a corner, and a scoreboard from the gym of the middle school that once occupied the same building.

We tentatively selected a metal table near the bar and listened to ’80s music playing on the speaker. Eventually, a very attentive server arrived and, being the only patrons in the restaurant, we were caught up in a whirlwind of almost immediate service for the remainder of our meal.

Though not extensive, the menu contained a tasteful selection of appetizers, salads and main courses, including extensive vegetarian and vegan options.

To begin, each of us ordered a salad, all of which cost $3 in the smallest size. The zoodle salad was centered around the modern innovation of zoodles: zucchinis sliced thin enough that a middle-aged mom could say, “it’s just like pasta but without the carbs!” The salad tasted fresh, and peanuts and basil added nice dimensions to it. The red onion, which can be scary in its uncooked form, was a nice touch. The spinach salad likewise did a good job of balancing sweet (strawberries and dressing) and savory (spinach, walnut and onion) flavors. 

For entrees, The Periodic Table offers options in two major categories: bowls and flats, all priced equally at $10. Again seeking diversity in our selections, we selected the green curry bowl and the chicken bruschetta flat. In the curry, to our surprise, the zoodles were back, stirred into the curry as the “seasonal vegetables” the menu promised, along with cauliflower. The zoodles were fun the first time, but placing them twice in a single meal seemed a bit much. The curry itself smelled a lot like coconuts and was just spicy enough to be invigorating without being painful. The chicken bruschetta, by contrast, offered a possibly better experience. As with the salads, the balance between the clashing flavors of chicken, cheese and balsamic vinegar was nearly perfect, and the mozarella was neither too heavy nor too sparse. Combined with the puffy but not overly-thick crust, these positive attributes far outweighed a somewhat odd choice of plate.

For dessert, we shared a raspberry cobbler. The confection seemed to consist of three layers: hot raspberry jam, a pastry which tasted pleasantly like sugar cookies and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Again, the balance of flavors was spot-on. It was a delicious way to end the meal, but at $8 might not have been worth the price.

Overall, The Periodic Table’s strengths include a balance of flavors and a strong dynamic equilibrium (pun intended) between culinary innovation and traditional flavors. On the downside, not all of the menu options are created equal, and particularly given the limited selection, prices are rather high. While it might be a place to visit once or twice with family, The Periodic Table is likely not the ideal restaurant for regular student outings.

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