"Big City Taste With A Small Town Vibe"
As we got the kids ready for dinner at Gracie's, Charisse asked me what kind of restaurant it was, I replied "I'm guessing a diner or some kind of home cooking establishment", basing this off no factual evidence other than my presumptions due to restaurants name. In typical fashion she then asked me to look up the menu online (over the years I have become well accustomed to these types of request, basically she asks & I do 😂😆).
Looking at the menu (courtesy of Google of course), names like "Heirloom Caprese" and "Charred Brussels Sprouts" quickly had me readjusting my initial thoughts of what kind of food I would soon be choosing (keep in mind, this is coming from a guy that is perfectly fine with eating Fried Chicken from a gas station with a red health department sticker on the door 😁😁). So needless to say I told Charisse to quite possibly readjust her expectations.
How Gracie's Came To Be...
What does one do after a life of hard work and ultimately success in the entertainment, financial, communication and non-profit sectors? I would think the next step would be retirement, however to Ami Vitori, a Middletown native, the next logical step was to come home and do something that served a dual purpose. Honor her Grandmother and assist her hometown in its rebirth.
Vitori's Market was owned and ran by Nick & Grace Vitori for 61 years. Entrenched in the "old school" way of life where blood relation wasn't a prerequisite for being considered family, being human and caring for one another was. Food was prepared by hand with care and extenuating circumstances were understood so "credit" was extended to those who couldn't afford the necessities of life. Because after all, family will make sure that family eats.
So in 2017 Ami moved back to Middletown and opened "Gracie's", a restaurant with a big city presence and hometown comfort, ala "Central Park Cafe" or "Tom's Restaurant". In other words come for the food, stay for the conversation.
So far we are totally digging the experience as the environment is relaxed and keeping with full disclosure, after reading the menu earlier, I thought it may have been necessary to purchase a new wardrobe (and possibly have my credit score run at the door 😯). Surprisingly it was the total opposite, I mean you can totally dress up if you like, but the standard issue "6 Kids 1 Tank" uniform was just fine.
As we looked over the menu I noticed Mj just couldn't stop staring towards the front door so I asked what had his attention and totally wasn't expecting his response "I swear that's one of the Kardashian's working at the host stand!", without even looking to confirm his comment I told him to try and focus on the menu as it had been a long day and everyone was ready to eat!
...."Gracie's effortlessly mixes the "swanky-ness" of the big city with the warmth of a small town"
The true star of the show (and rightfully so) at Gracie's is the food. Where the menu orignally left me with questions about the "bougie-ness" (say it with me bou-Gee-ness) of this establishment, it now all made sense as Gracie's effortlessly mixes the "swanky-ness" (follow the bouncy ball and say it with me, swan-Key-ness) of the big city with the warmth of a small town.
I'm not a fan of restaraunts with 50 page menus as it can become confusing figuring out what items they are actually good at (plus seriously, how can your food actually be fresh with so many items? Somethings being microwaved in the back). Gracie's however has a menu that is simple yet filled with variety.
We spent a few minutes deciding on an appetizer as the Steak Tenderloin Skewers were highly recommended by the waitress. As I started to open my mouth and order, a waitress wizzed by with a cast iron skillet, delivering to the table adjacent to ours what looked like cornbread. I immediately asked our waitress if it was in fact what I thought and she confirmed, "Absolutely, that's our Farmers Market Cornbread, if you like your mother's cornbread, you'll love ours!" Challenge accepted, cornbread it is!
Sorry Mom but she was right, WE (don't just get upset at me it was everyone) absolutely loved the cornbread. The kids thought it tasted like cake and I would definitely agree as it was just as flavorful and less dense than typical pans of cornbread, not sure if it's due to the mini cast iron skillet or the recipe (or both) but whatever the case may be, it's excellent!
After demolishing the cornbread it was a bit difficult to even think about eating anything else, but hey, when in Rome right?! Bring the food on!!
I was glad that Charisse ordered this as I actually was torn between it and another item and this way I could just eat off her plate as well, which is something I've learned from her over the last 10 years. Made with ground chuck and what I call a stroke of genius, chorizo!
If you tend to shy away from any kind of heat don't worry as Charisse isn't a fan of spicy foods either and still enjoyed her dish. The chorizo added flavor and instead of traditional gravy / BBQ sauce / ketchup, they based it with sage gravy which was a very tasty substitute making this an exemplary dish.
Every Friday & Saturday nights you'll find a new surprise as these are the "Chef Inspired" nights where as the name suggest, the savant with the apron shows why he's wearing the apron. The special this evening was a london broil with charred Brussels sprouts and a garlic butter dab. No need here to get into super detail as it can be explained very easily. I enjoy my steaks medium rare which in theory sounds easy but more often than not it will come back either rare or medium.
The chef hit this one out of the park, seasoned perfectly and seared, sealing all of the flavor inside. Some cooks will season just the outside, leaving the inside bland & undesirable. Not the case here as every bite was perfect and melted like butter with every bite. The brussels sprouts were equally as tasty, with a lightly charred skin and just as the steak was, the inside was butter soft.
6 "Kids" Meals
Munchie and Chips both had the grilled cheese meal, Scoop had the chicken tenders and Vegas went for the mac & cheese. The grilled cheese sandwiches were loaded with cheese allowing Munchie & Chips to have a "Cheese Stretch" contest to see who's cheese strand would stretch the longest before breaking. Yes I know, not proper table etiquette but hey, we try to be fun parents every once in a while.
Scoop loved her tenders so much that she didn't dip any of them in the accompanying sauce. Vegas's eyes lit up when he saw the huge bowl of mac placed in front of him and ate most of it, making sure to ask the waitress for a to go box. Their meals came with a generous portion of seasoned fries and unlike kids meal's at most restaurants, there was more than enough to fill up most youngsters.
A Fitting Tribute...
Gracie's is a fitting tribute to a family that dedicated their lives to their community and made sure no one went without. Fast forward generations and they are still operating with the same values and reinvesting in the 2nd coming of Middletown and once again working to make sure the community has a place to call home.
I will say that I initally scoffed at the notion of MJ thinking a Kardashian would be at Gracie's among us "civillians", but after learning the history and enjoying the"Big city vibe and hometown comforts" firsthand, I could totally see the Kardashians enjoying themselves, bougie-ness and all! Also a special thanks to the staff at Gracie's and Jenny in particular that took great care of us and kept the kids smiling the whole time. We really appreciate you!
*Our visit to Gracie's was provided by the MVB and Gracie's, however our view's are 100% our own!*