If you are a regular reader of my weekly lunch picks than you already know I have a soft spot for restaurants with heart. That’s the feel-good quality that fills a room from the moment you walk in. There’s a warm greeting and some genuine eye contact — a smile even. It’s not much really. But when you eat out as often as I do you realize these are rare commodities. Especially in the downtown core.
The problem is, saying a restaurant has heart sounds like a euphemism for “the food’s not that good.” It’s like being set up on a blind date and learning he or she has a great sense of humour. You know you’ve dialed up an eyesore.
Grounded has that blind date quality. The first time I visited, I kept my expectations low and was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a bustling handsome downtown oasis with undeniable charm. The place has been lovingly decked out using recycled furniture and bold colourful art. The kitchen is part of the decor — it’s open for all to see — which adds a touch of vulnerability to its funky edge. The staff buzz around attending to everyone’s needs.
I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about Grounded, even though there was nothing special about the club sandwich panini I ordered. But the food was sort of beside the point. I had a good time. I wanted another date. So I went back and I found myself even more enamoured, but again the food was underwhelming. It wasn’t bad, just not quite as good as I’d hoped it would be.
Since the sandwich didn’t knock my socks off on the first visit, I opted for a salad — the “Green and Gold.” It’s a bowl of baby spinach with beets, a few blobs of goat cheese, and toasted walnuts. I added a salmon filet (chicken breast or seared Ahi tuna were other options) that was simply seasoned and baked. It was a light healthy lunch, better than any fast food salad around, but it left me with a slight pang of yearning. I wanted the flavour in each ingredient to pop, I’d hoped it would take my tastebuds on more of a ride.
Grounded you really are a wonderful lunch spot. It’s not you, it’s me.
Hours: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Grounded Kitchen & Coffeehouse, 100 Gloucester St., 613-567-1234.