I’ve never really associated the strip of Granville Street downtown known as the “Granville Entertainment District” with good food. While the high-traffic area is full of restaurants and bars, the dining options seem to veer towards cheap, cheerful, and fast—and I’m not just talking about those $1.99 pizza joints on every corner.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw the words “roasted Cornish game hen” and “smoked pork rillettes” listed on the menu during a recent visit to the Granville Room (957 Granville Street). During a media event at the Donnelly Group-owned restaurant and bar, I had a chance to sample items off the newly revamped bar and kitchen menus. The decade-old room has also gotten a diner-friendly facelift, with more tables scattered throughout the room and more light to illuminate what’s on your plate.
Unlike many of the Donnelly-run establishments, where the menu is designed by Donnelly Group’s research and development chef Alvin Pillay, the dishes at the Granville Room are the work of executive chef Kye Agrios. The menu is divided into “small”, “bigger”, and “large” plates ($5 to $22), and almost all dishes are easily sharable. Among the small plates, the standouts for me were the Andouille corn dogs, which were crunchy, slightly spicy, and served with a house-made honey-mustard sauce; and the bacon and quail’s egg buns, which might just be one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had.
Among the bigger plates, the poutine topped with duck confit and foie gras gravy will satiate even the most voracious appetite; while diners looking for a lighter meal will be pleased with the salad-like seared albacore tuna over roasted sweet corn, arugula, and English pea purée.
Of course, if you still want more, there’s that Cornish game hen, served with crispy spaetzle, garlic mashed potatoes, and vegetables. General manager Joey Donnelly—who is also a bartender and holds claim to one of the original cocktails on the drinks menu—said that the grilled AAA beef tenderloin, which comes with goat cheese potato gratin, asparagus, and brandy peppercorn sauce, is the most popular menu item among restaurant industry insiders looking for a hearty meal at the end of a long shift (the Granville Room’s kitchen opens from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.).
Different than other Granville Street bars, the restaurant offers more than tequila shots and cheap beer—although if that’s what you’re looking for, they do carry both. Instead, I suggest you head straight to the cocktails section of the drinks menu, where newly created concoctions, including Joey Donnelly’s smooth vanilla-laced The Executive, sit beside classic cocktails, such as Bourbon Smash.
Bar flies seeking even stronger sippers should check out the list of cask-strength cocktails, made with spirits that have more than 60 percent alcohol-by-volume (meaning: strong). I tried the Nadurra Old Fashioned, which features 16-year-old Glenlivet Nadurra whiskey. For some people, breaking out the barrel-proof whiskey might be reserved for celebrations and special occasions. I’d consider being happily surprised on Granville Street one of those instances.