Discerning Diner: No Frills, Just Good Food at The Grotto

If you look up the word grotto in the dictionary, you’ll see the following definition: “an indoor structure resembling a cave,” and after visiting the Grotto Pub Sports & Raw Bar, I’d say that they come by their name honestly. The Grotto, established in 2009, replaces the former Village Inn located at 104 Market Street and is the first structure visitors see as they turn into the small village of West Fairview.

Patrons can opt for front parking if they are ok with walking down a short flight of steep steps to the pub below. For those prefer an easier entry, I recommend parking in the lot located at the lower level.

When my dining companion and I walked through the front door last Sunday for lunch, my eyes took a moment to adjust to the rather dark, windowless interior, with its blue-hued walls and dark wood tables. Cave indeed.

The pub, which seats about 50, features a small bar and a combination of tables, both low and high-top. An employee invited us to sit where we wanted, so we grabbed a seat near the hand-crafted grotto built into a wall near the back entrance.

For a small place, The Grotto provides its share of sensory overload. From the 10 flat-screen televisions scattered around the room, to the music playing through loudspeakers, to the selection of electronic games, like golf and darts. Neon beer signs add to the informal atmosphere and customers are invited to decorate the walls with stickers that contain the initials of various places they’ve traveled.

The menu, (which you won’t find online), lists appetizers, like onion rings, nachos, mozzarella sticks and Grotto crab toast. A selection of salads range from house, to Caesar, to a Pittsburgh salad filling enough to sate any appetite. Served with a choice of steak, or chicken, the Pittsburgh Salad, in a nod to the Primanti Brothers, is topped with fries. If that weren’t enough, The Grotto adds crispy, beer battered onion rings. Who says a salad can’t be a meal?

Other menu items include a selection of wraps, burgers, sandwiches and entrees like crab cakes and filet mignon. The Grotto also offers flatbread pizza and wings tossed to order with a wide selection of sauces like Garlic Herb, Parmesan, Caribbean Jerk and Honey Hot.

Items “Fresh from the Steamer” include littleneck clams, jumbo shrimp and colossal lump crab dusted with old bay.

I noticed a Philly cheesesteak described on the menu as thinly shaved ribeye, served with fried onions on an Amoroso roll. Cheese choices included American, provolone, pepperjack and Cheese Whiz. For the sake of authenticity, I ordered my cheesesteak the way they do in Philly--“whiz wit,” in other words, Cheese Whiz with onions.” ($7.95) My companion opted for the Reuben with thin sliced corned beef, 1000 Island dressing, sauerkraut and Swiss on grilled rye bread. ($8.95)

Our lunches arrived in short order and we were both very happy with our respective selections. His Reuben was hot and stacked with tender corned beef, with just the right amount of dressing and sauerkraut. He polished off the generous amount of piping hot, salty fresh cut fries served alongside his sandwich in short order too.

Over the years, I’ve eaten a few stringy, tough cheesesteaks and am pleased to say that The Grotto obviously has high standards for the Philly favorite and my only issue was that the Cheez Whiz was applied just a little too heavily for my taste—something I’ll mention when ordering in the future. The side of chips are noteworthy; they weren’t just any old store-bought variety. It was obvious that they were made from scratch onsite and dusted lightly with a spice mixture having a hint of Old Bay.

If you’ve passed by The Grotto in the past, now might be a good time to grab a few friends and give it a whirl. The food is good, the prices are right and the choices are likely to appeal to the whole gang.

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