Tucked away behind the neighborhood video and hookah shop (because that’s a thing, apparently) is Garden Grill (3129 W. Armitage Ave.). In a former life, the restaurant served shawarma, kabob, falafel and other Mediterranean fare and seemed to be well-liked by the neighborhood. After switching management, this iteration of the restaurant closed in late 2012 and sat vacant for a few months.
Now Garden Grill is back with a new identity, this time at the hands of schoolteacher-turned-entrepreneur Enice Reyes. “I noticed an empty restaurant and my childhood memories of traditional cooking in my family kitchen in Mexico inspired me to bring those customs here,” Reyes said in a press release. “We are preparing dishes that are simple, yet very authentic, just how my grandmother used to make it.”
Between all-day breakfast and a hodgepodge of Mexican and mainstream American dishes, it seems like Garden Grill can’t quite decide what it wants to be; next to lengua tacos you’ll find strawberry pancakes and a bacon lovers cheeseburger.
I stopped in a few weeks back to see how it all came together. The interior is clean and bright, given that strange two-entryway layout their Subway neighbors also have (one on Kedzie, one through the parking lot). Reyes, the owner, greeted me at the register and made a few recommendations. I ordered a few dishes and grabbed a table. A family sat nearby watching the news on a blaring television, but the restaurant was otherwise empty.
The chef delivered chips and salsa (a menu item, not free), which did not disappoint. The chips were flaky and hot, and the salsa was clearly fresh but nothing extraordinary.
Next up, came the tacos. The fish taco was bland and a bit too fishy for my taste. The al pastor was decent: heavy on the cumin and topped with fresh veggies.
It will be nice to have another quick food option in the Armitage corridor, which for the most part is limited to pricier sit down spots and national chains. Garden Grill is decent, but I’d like to see them pick an identity and perfect it rather than spreading itself thin with Mexican and American breakfast, lunch and dinner.