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West End Grill: Huntsville's Business Lunch Hot-Spot!
© 2013 B.L. Bierley
A Hidden Culinary Gem
West End Grill, located on Old Madison Pike in Huntsville, is in a conveniently hidden location. If you aren't broadsided by Bridge Street's flashy and relatively new outdoor mall setting, you will find it tucked in an innocuous strip mall near both a Mexican restaurant and a hipster pizzeria. But if you find this hidden gem, you will get more than just a well prepared meal at a reasonable price. West End Grill is one of Huntsville, Alabama's best kept secrets. That is, until this author recently uncovered the treasure!
Hot Spot, Cool Atmosphere
If you’re looking for a convenient location to have a nice business lunch, this is your place! Open from 10:30 a.m. for you early birds, as you walk in the door you are greeted and seated by a hostess. A highlighted board over the waiting area bench offers menu options to get you thinking about the specials before you even reach your table. The current beers on tap, specials of the day and meal options for a lower price than usual are a great way to market to a business-savvy crowd. In fact, I know several people through business contacts who would recommend West End Grill as a great place to hold a business lunch with a new client, customer or vendor.
Since I had a recent Tuesday with no lunch plans, I decided to give the restaurant a try. I noticed right away that the atmosphere was business-casual during the 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. crowd. Interesting aquariums separated the dining area from the full bar. The music playing softly in the background was easy listening pop music of the 80’s and 90’s. And while it was familiar it wasn't overbearing on the diners’ conversations.
As I sat briefly, waiting to be attended by a server, I could hear several groups discussing their various projects in generic terminology with the hope of appealing to their respective audiences. I think I even saw a couple of interviews taking place in a casual dining setting. It’s becoming the thing for businesses in this market to schmooze people to their workplaces with savvy dining choices!
I was very comfortable in my two-person booth seat. The restaurant offered larger, five and six-person tables as well, though. I noticed quickly that there was also an outdoor seating area offering shade, umbrellas and an outdoor feel that would easily appeal to a greater number of after-hours/happy hour patrons in the summer months as they are open later, burning past the midnight oil until 1:30 a.m. seven days a week.
What's For Lunch?
When choosing a place for lunch, the subject of pricing should always weigh in on the decision. West End Grill is what I would call a mid-priced option. The pricing is reasonable, though, with an average entrée with vegetable, beverage and dessert running between fifteen to twenty dollars. For most of us this is acceptable if we don’t want fast food. I was given a lunch menu during my visit, but I made sure to get a take-away menu when I left to see what else they had to offer for future reference.
West End Grill has an eclectic menu featuring a mix of “Meat and Potatoes” meets “Make it Quick” with a smidgeon of “Fine Dining” thrown in for good measure. They also offer many varieties of options: fried or sautéed, grilled or Cajun, just to name a few. As I ordered my meal, a “Build-Your-Own” salad, with shrimp and a glass of my favorite house “wine”-Sweet tea with generous lemon wedges, I was given the option of fried or sautéed preparation for my shrimp. Also as I watched a nearby table receiving food, my server detailed what the person’s order entailed without my even having to ask.
The lunchtime service was perfect. My server Yvette was prompt and attentive without being overly bothersome. I like a server who knows when I need something as well as when to let me enjoy the food. And she kept my glass of tea topped off without my having to ask. I was even given a “to-go” cup for the portion I didn’t finish when I asked for one.
My food arrived and right away I was impressed. The presentation was attractive without being pretentious or puny in portion. My sautéed shrimp were warm enough to melt the cheese a little, which I liked. The bed of spring mix lettuce, with peppery arugula and a carrot-cabbage base, was crisp and clean. I don’t usually like carrot-cabbage heavy salads, mostly because it’s a well-known fact that cabbage and carrots are less expensive than lettuce and therefore such salads often come across as cheap. However, in this case the bulkier roughage seemed more capable of supporting the featured meat of the dish without wilting.
My shrimp were flavorful and cooked to perfection. The homemade ranch dressing wasn't as flavorful as my usual preference, but that may have been forward thinking on the chef’s part. All in all, I would give West End Grill, on a five star rating scale, four-and-a-half stars (I'll have to round that to five on the rating below since half-stars will not compute). Coming from a very finicky eater like me, that is high praise indeed.
West End Grill of Huntsville, Alabama is definitely a place worth mentioning. It is inviting and easily accessible for the average business person looking for a quick, enjoyable and affordable lunch experience. And apparently I am not alone. The restaurant seems to do a good deal of business, and I guess the well-kept secret is out among its booming clientele! Even though they were somewhat busy, I was served a well-prepared, delicious meal by smart, attentive server in a great atmosphere without overstepping my lunch hour.
If you have less than an hour for lunch, don't worry. West End Grill of Huntsville also offers an Express Lunch Menu, served on weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for those of us with tighter schedules. The fare is comparable to their regular menu with choices like, Chicken and Dressing, Meatloaf, and even combinations of soups, salads or sandwich choices that cater to a lighter-lunch customer.
My only minor complaints would be the availability of close parking spaces in relative distance to the door (there were plenty of further off spaces, I’m just a chubby woman with mild arthritis who hates to walk too far), and not wanting to leave the restaurant because the tea was so good! While the servers were prompt and very efficient (worth every penny of their tip, too), seriously pay attention to your watch when you visit because you can easily get comfortable in there!
I will be returning to West End Grill for lunch again soon. I’ve got a colleague whom I owe an overdue birthday lunch that will love it! I will also be checking out the happy-hour someday in the near future with my gaggle of gals who want a convenient, just-off-the-clock, girls’ night out!
How Do I Find West End Grill?
If you are new to the Huntsville area, you might miss this place without clear, concise directions. That would be unfortunate. It’s actually quite convenient to the nearby business districts, the airport and two of our three major shopping hubs. I’ll offer directions for those folks coming to us from out of town. Anyone local should be able to figure out how to get there by my details, otherwise, I’d suggest a GPS with the address from the website, www.westendgrillhsv.com.
For our out-of-town friends, here’s how to find it:
You will need to take the I-565 exit from Huntsville International Airport heading east (Huntsville or Scottsboro are two directional cities if you need a hint. If you take the Decatur exit, you’ll be going west and you’ll need to turn around at the Mooresville exit).
You will take the second exit as you go. It should be the Alabama Hwy 255 exit, also known as the Gate 9 Arsenal exit. If you’re in town on business, it’s probably redundant to point this out. As you exit, keep to the left lane so that you circle around and are now heading north on the highway.
As you make your way onto the highway, the first exit you will see is the exit for Old Madison Pike where West End Grill is located. You will take this exit, staying in the leftmost lane as you do. At the light, you will turn left. West End Grill is the very first left after you turn off the exit ramp. It’s advisable to park in the outer lot if you are driving a larger vehicle or rental, due to the tight space available to turn around when you are closer to the building.