Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hermitage Grill: Retro and Raunchy

I've been accused of being a city snob because I so rarely go beyond its borders for a restaurant meal, although I did venture out to Patterson and Libbie just the other day to eat.

And today, as we start another week, I found myself eating in the county again, so let my detractors please take note. I'm not sure I can be made fun of anymore for a solely city-centric worldview.

Instead of going west, today I went north to meet my friend Holly who's a regular and a big fan of the Hermitage Grill. She assured me that the place was friendly and the food consistently good. What more could I want for Sunday brunch except directions to the place since I had no clear idea where it was?

It's a small, square place (capacity 40) with a Royal Crown Cola clock and a neon Rx sign that was acquired during the demolition of Lakeside Pharmacy in exchange for two barbecue sandwiches.

That's a damn good deal, I'd say.

There are only three bar stools and my friend and I took up two thirds of them. A regular named Jason took the third, but I suspect most of the people in there today were regulars based on the greetings they got from the staff.

The menu kept the retro charm going with Fried Bologna and Onion Ring Eggs Benedict and Don's SOS (Shit on a Shingle) over Texas Toast. If you were looking for something truly different, there was Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish with Tarragon Bernaise.

I ordered the Spicy Black Bean Burrito and was pleased to find that it contained just enough eggs and cheese to bind the beans and was not stuffed with inexpensive green peppers as filler, a pet peeve of mine. My friend had the Flank Steak and Eggs, pounded out and blackened; she ate every bite.

Afterwards, we moved outside to the long picnic table that serves as a smoking area and is covered with crab meat cans for ashtrays. There, we sat in the sunshine catching up on each other's lives and watching the non-stop parade of shoppers at the Lakeside Market just across the street, a place I've obviously never frequented or I'd have known where the Hermitage Grill was.

And maybe because it's Sunday and maybe because it's a beautiful day, but of the dozen or more people we watched go in, only one came out with anything but beer (he got a newspaper).

At one point, the owner came out, locked the store and went to his car to get something. As he returned, an approaching customer starting giving him a hard time, saying, "You're supposed to be in the store selling beer, not out here."

I'm sure it was a lighthearted exchange, but I also guess that it points to the store's role in the neighborhood.

We finally went back inside to cool off and pay our bill.

My friend had mentioned how tiny and unusual the bathrooms were, so I went to find out. In the ladies' room were a toilet and a mirror on the door. The only part of the mirror not painted over was the face; a woman's body and even a hat covered the rest of the mirror.

When I sat down, my face filled the mirror, making it look like I was sitting on a beach reading The First Wives Club. It was cute and clever and I mentioned it when I got back to the bar.

Steve, the bartender, told me that most, but not every, woman agreed with me. Seems a woman was having dinner with friends one evening and went to use the bathroom just before her food came. She came out sputtering, saying she was appalled and would not eat at such a restaurant.

Her complaint?

When she stood up after using the toilet and looked down, apparently her "stuff" was front and center in the mirror. "I shouldn't have had to see that!" she told Steve and stalked out, never to return.

So here's your fair warning, ladies. If you don't want to see your naughty bits in the bathroom mirror of the Hermitage Grill, pull up your drawers as you stand up.

Or, better yet, get a grip.


  1. This is the first I've heard of this place, but I don't make it out to Northside eateries too often. Now, I'm just lookin for a reason.

  2. This is the first I've heard of this place, but I don't make it out to Northside eateries too often. Now, I'm just lookin for a reason.

  3. It's just off the main drag, so you have to be looking for it to find it.

    Was it the fried bologna and onion ring benedict or Don's SOS that spoke to you?

  4. Love Hermitage Grill, but we don't visit nearly often enough. Thanks for the reminder!

    Great story about the mirror.