Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Big Slim's Grill

Name: Big Slim's Grill
Address: 214 Walton St, Syracuse, NY
Phone: 315-314-7766
Neighborhood: Downtown (Armory Square)
Website: www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Slims-Grill/125634480864605
Menu: n/a
Cuisine: Sandwiches, wraps, burgers, wings, salads, fried foods
Restaurant Hours: Monday to Wednesday 11AM - 9PM, Thursday to Saturday 11AM - 3AM, Sunday 11AM - 9PM
Parking: On-street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Takes Reservations: No
Take-Out: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes
Delivery: Yes (see additional notes)

Open since the summer of 2011, Big Slim's Grill offers up two sides of the equation for any lunchtime and late-night restaurant goer: "big" for the heavy eater in you and "slim" if you're leaning towards the lighter fare.

The interior has a fairly sleek vibe to it with a consistent seating and color scheme (even a lage flat screen TV in one corner). I thought the space could be filled in bit more with some tables, but overall I found it to be a huge improvement over the previous establishment and extremely clean. There's also a couple tables for outdoor seating adjacent to the handicap ramp in front.

The menu has a good range of healthy and not-so-healthy choices: The BSG Bacon Burger (angus burger with bacon, cheddar cheese, and the fixings), Basil Bomber (grilled chicken, mozzarella, spinach, roasted red peppers, and pesto on a ciabata roll), The 76er (Philly steak, onion rings, cheese whiz, grilled pepper and mushrooms on a toasted sub roll), The Balboa (ground hamburger, mozzarella sticks, marinara sauce, and Parmesan cheese on a toasted sub roll), and The Buffalo Biff (grilled chicken, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, Buffalo sauce in a wheat wrap.

There's also a create-your-own section with various main options like chicken tenders, Philly steak, turkey, steak tips, or roast beef; those can be with rolls, wraps, panini or as a salad; and those can be accompanied with toppings and sides like lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumber, almonds, fruit, roasted red peppers, onion rings, eggs, dressings, hot sauces, sweet 'n sour sauce, and BBQ sauce. That's really only a portion of what there is. The list is kind of huge. The menu looks small at first glance, but there's literally tons of combinations that you can make.

Aside from create-your-own, there's also Dumpster Plates, the Rochester equivalent of a Garbage Plate as well as other sides like mac salad, baked beans, home fries, French fries, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wings.

It was Midnight on a Saturday night and I had to do it.

The order...

Combination Dumpster Plate: $8.99
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $12

A brief history of the Garbage Plate: In what would best be described as a Rochester delicacy, a Garbage Plate is essentially a gigantic, made-to-order pile of greasy food usually consisting of either hamburger, cheeseburger, Italian sausages, steak, chicken, white or red hots, a grilled cheese sandwich, fried fish, or eggs; and served on top of one or two of the following: home fries, french fries, beans, and mac salad. The plate is then topped with optional mustard, chopped onions, and a spicy ground beef sauce and served with a side of bread. Basically, it's a drunkard's heaven.

Nick Tahou's main location at 320 W Main St in Rochester, is home to the original Garbage Plate. It also owns its trademark name - hence while you'll see different names for the same dish across much of Upstate New York (J Ryan's has the Bubba Plate, here at Big Slim's you'll find the Dumpster Plate, etc...). There's plenty of places in Rochester that have their own take on it and many Rochesterians(?) each have their own place where they prefer it from.

Despite having lived in The Roc for roughly a year, I didn't test out a lot of garbage plates during my stay aside from the original at Nick Tahou's, which I kind of use as the basis for judging them. Coincidentally, in attendance with me at the time of my visit to Big Slim's was a buddy of mine who went to RIT and is somewhat of a garbage plate connoisseur (his favorite is from Schaller's). So between the two of us, we had somewhat of a good impression as to what constitutes a good plate and a bad one.

The Dumpster Plate here Big Slim's is fairly classic and comes with a selected combination of hot dogs, cheeseburger, hamburger, chicken tenders, or Philly cheese steak and two sides of either macaroni salad, french fries, home fries, or baked beans. On top of that is their signature ground beef sauce and on the side is a slice of white bread.

Again, I was with a group of guys entering in around Midnight or so on a Saturday night. All 6 of us ordered different plates, some of which came with home fries, eggs, chicken tenders, etc... so despite the different orders and time of operation, we all received them pretty quickly, which was fairly impressive and kind of key when you're out late and looking for a quick meal of food before heading home. I ordered mac salad and french fries for mine. It's only a buck for the additional meat, so I decided to upgrade and go with both hamburger and hot dogs. Big spender!

If you've never eaten one before, all you do is cut it up and swish some of it around and then dive in - it's easy enough for a drunk person to figure out and I suppose not unlike how you'd approach eating bibimbap at a Korean restaurant. Ketchup and hot sauce were both available at the table too which are always essential.

First impressions were how good both the fries and mac salad were. The fries were really good. Crunchy and fried to golden perfection. And in general, I love mac salad in garbage plates. It's such an odd addition that works really well for some reason. Big Slim's mac salad was very good and came with chopped carrots, celery, and onions and had a good pasta and creamy mayo consistency. I'd definitely order either one again, with or without being in an actual garbage plate. The signature meat sauce was complete with juicy ground beef that was fairly high on the heat scale. And, in keeping with the classic theme, the added grease drippings were easily mopped up with a slice of white bread (not pictured).

I've previously written about my thoughts on a much needed Syracuse version of this monstrosity. Turns out Big Slim's uses Hofmann hot dogs (I asked), which was a refreshing sight. You can't really see it in the picture, but I do appreciate how the dogs were split and fried, which stays true to an original garbage plate. However, I wasn't overly crazy about the style of hot dogs used as they didn't have the casing that I was anticipating. These probably were indeed Hofmann's, but they were not the "snappy" style. Hofmann does have several different styles of franks, so these may have been the skinless German style brand. Still, an excellent grilled and tasty addition and great to see some hometown representation. I just think that additional "snap" would've set it over the edge. The only thing really lacking with any of it was the hamburger meat, which although was a huge helping, tasted fairly dry and somewhat charred.

Overall though, it was a great rendition. And my RIT buddy confirmed. It more than filled an empty stomach and satisfied a perfect late-night urge for greasy delicious food. Big Slim's should be proud as it clearly puts the Garbage Plate on the map here in 'cuse.

Additional notes...

- They do deliver with a $20 minimum and within a 3 mile radius. Best to call for details.

- While not necessarily related to this restaurant, how cool would it be to see coneys and/or Tater Tots as options in Garbage Plates?

I'd go out on a limb and say that Big Slim's hit a home run, or at least a triple, with their concept of healthy food and greasy late night offerings both existing in the same place within the confines of Armory Square. This way both sides of the spectrum can enjoy what they have to offer: the Downtown lunch goer on an afternoon weekday and the 20-something roué on a weekend night. (First and last time I'll ever use that word. Thank you, thesaurus).

I'll have to head over for lunch one of these days. Also, the wings were a nice surprise to see on the menu, so I'll have to give those a try too. For late night and definitely for a garbage plate, I'd say give it a shot. I found it to be very a clean place with tasty food and quick and friendly service.

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