Grille 401 is what happens what a rich guy from out of town decides he needs to park some money and relies on other, incompetent people to put it together for him. The place is a disaster from head to toe, starting with their website which is one of the worst I've ever seen that was supposedly done by a professional. It looks like it was designed on a phone by someone with no understanding of the visual process. Everything is off scale, photos are in the wrong proportions, the menus span like 10 pages. There are huge areas of white space, they spell palate "pallet". It's an embarrassment; I don't see how anyone could sign off on such a piece of junk for a multi-million dollar business.
Their restaurant branding is also a mess; they have 3 restaurants that almost nobody knows are the same owner; they called themselves "Rainmaker Restaurant Group" sometimes but I can't find any registration for a business with that name. They settled on Brimstone WFG Holding Company in 2013; why choose a restaurant in Pembroke Pines as your corporate brand?
Their message is a series of false premises; they opened the restaurants with pages and pages of "testimonials" which they've since removed; maybe they discovered that making up testimonials is considered false advertising? They have one of the worst menus in the city; when I see "Barbecued Salmon" and "New Orleans Pasta" I know that I'm dealing with a corporate kitchen with roots from the TGI Friday's culinary institute. The menu is one bad recipe after another; they've taken just about all of the steak off of the menu; why have a wood-fired grill if you're not going to have any beef? This is the kind of restaurant that should serve Steak and Broccoli, and they don't have either.
The original bar area was also a huge mistake; it's too bright with mirrors and it was the reason that nobody came here until they got the open air patio bar built. It was like they ripped the place and rebuilt something worse; something that rich guys without a plan tend to do.
So, for a long time I thought about coming in again, looked at the menu, and then went somewhere else. Every time I walk by I hear the loud, blaring music and I wonder why anyone would want to eat here; it's Bova Prime reborn. I live across the street and haven't been in the place for 2 years. Today I decided to go, even if I had to order something I didn't want.
I walked in at 2:31pm to a largely empty restaurant; there were a couple of people at the "old" bar and nobody even manning the open air bar.
Grille 401 open air bar
The hostess gave me the obligatory "Would you like to sit in the bar". I said no, and she proceeded to try to seat me at a booth in the bar. "I feel like I'm in the bar here, can I get something on the other side". Hostesses always look so mad when you don't want the table they pick out for you. This table was better; the only people in the dining room was a manager sitting in the back and an employee.
Grille 401 Dining Room
My server took my beverage order and asked if I wanted to know the specials. "Yes Please". A corvina sandwich, a soup that sounded really bad, and when she started to describe the asparagus I had to keep myself from laughing; the same sad recipe they served when I came here when they first opened. They had a chicken special that sounded like a variation of the Chicken Paillard I was considering; I playfully asked how much it was: $26 she said; I smiled and said I needed a few minutes. So why was the special $8 more than the regular menu chicken? Was Emeril going to make it for me?
She delivered the tea and I ordered the Chicken Paillard mainly because it was the only thing on the menu that I hadn't summarily rejected based on the absurdity of the description.
Grille 401 Iced Tea
They only have the raw sugar; Note to restaurant owners: raw sugar doesn't dissolve in cold beverages. Ever. There's no bread at the 401 Grille; only good restaurants serve bread. Music from Yuna, Estelle feat Cee-Lo. Rihanna. All dance music all the time.
12 minutes at a breadless table and the food is delivered.
Grille 401 Chicken Paillard
Quite a pile of stuff. This dish should be about the chicken, but they succeeded in diminishing it. I brushed away the Arugula to see what was going on. There were 2 small pieces of chicken and a huge mound of pasta.
Grille 401 Chicken Paillard
The strips of sun dried tomato served no purpose and frankly needed to be discarded. The menu said that a red roasted pepper tapenade was included, but there was no such thing on the plate.
Grille 401 Sundried Tomato Strips
There were 4 capers buried in the pasta, which I thought was kind of funny. I don't really care for capers anyway.
Grille 401 Capers
The sauce wasn't browned butter. Brown butter has almost a nutty taste. This was just some bland sauce with something added to color it.
I ended up eating the chicken and the arugula. My glass was empty for quite a while, so long that I put it at the edge of the table. Servers and managers walked by; none of them giving a crap that I had an empty glass. At a real restaurant ANY server will notice such things.
Grille 401 Empty Glass
After a while, my server shuffled by with a bunch of plates; they don't seem to have busboys here, because at $18/plate they can't afford those. "Would you like a refill?". Um, yeah. She waddled into the back and came back 6 minutes later with another glass. No sense of urgency; I also thought it was rich that she didn't even bother to take away the empty glass.
Grille 401 Iced Tea plus old glass
At this point I was almost done as I'd had the chicken for 22 minutes. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. I decide to go to the bathroom.
Grille 401 Ready to Go
When I returned, nothing had changed. Empty plates and glass on the table. I see my server. Can I get the check? Sure. She saunters into the back; 7 minutes later she comes out with my check.
All of this is quite unbelievable. I'm out at 3:28, 57 minutes for a 1 course lunch.
Despite the transparent attempt at marketing this as some sort of serious restaurant, it doesn't take much of a sleuth to learn the truth. One look at the menu and you know that this is just another corporate restaurant serving bad recipes at NYC prices. The "chef" here used to work at Seasons 52, which explains a lot.
While making good food is something that requires skill, the awful, indifferent service is a function of incompetent management. With a manager sitting in the restaurant, it's fairly clear that they don't know how to run a restaurant, and they don't care either. It's too bad, because with a better menu and people working here who cared, this could be a really good spot.
I've stopped in here a couple of times since they've opened the new patio. Both times I left without even buying a drink. Both times were on the weekend. The new indoor/outdoor bar is certainly better than before. There were 0 people at the main (original) bar both times; on Saturday night.
What's happened is that they've taken some business from YOLO with the exact same product: Bad Music, loud, bad corporate menu, lots of empty-headed people. Nobody has any ideas in this town; just crank out the same product and hope some people are tired of the other places. At least Rare had good food; this concept has failed twice at this location, why is this one better, because they have a nicer patio?
It's very, very unfortunate. Everyone wants to be a club in a town where people moved because there weren't any clubs.
I went to Grille 401 on the day that they opened and sat in the dining room; They did a nice job; There are lots of booths and an attractive decor. There's nothing wrong with the dining room.
Grille 401 Interior
They recently came out with a lunch menu, which is basically the same as the dinner menu without the steaks; this is the most expensive lunch on the street.
I had some $8.95 ribs that cost $17 on that visit; not terrible but nothing I'd recommend or order again. Saucy, not very smokey.
Grille 401 Ribs
I sub'ed out the Fries for the special of chilled Asparagus; a big mistake. First, asparagus doesn't go with ribs very well; second they put some flavorless, wonky sauce on it that didn't help.
Grille 401 Asparagus
I've thought about stopping in for a re-visit multiple times as I live nearby, but never make it past the front steps. Bad music and an empty bar are like a forcefield around the restaurant; causing people to bounce off and head to YOLO or the Royal Pig. Why go in here when there are people at other restaurants nearby?jump-->
I can't express how much I hate the bar here. They've toned down the lights since they first opened, but it's still mirrored mania; too loud with a low mirrored ceiling and creepy mirrored posts; mirrors behind the bar. You'd think that this place was designed in the 80s, when mirrors where "in".
Grille 401 Mirrored Posts
What's really unfortunate is that sitting at the bar is eerily like being at the bar at Rare or Bova Prime, which is sort of like dating a girl who looks just like your crazy aunt. On a Thursday night there are 7 people at the bar, counting myself; a couple who clearly were there by mistake and 4 older dudes watching the Heat game. The TVs here aren't as good as they had here before either; even though they're pretty close to the bar I was having trouble reading the scores. Partially my fault; but I can read the scores at other venues.
To get an idea of the space without people or chairs, this is a shot from just as construction was completed.
Grille 401 Bar Area after Construction
The bar ambiance is not inviting; the girls behind the bar are busy barking out orders and tasking and have no time to spend on their customers; it's more like boot camp than a pleasant place to dine or hang out. I asked for a wine by the glass menu and a food menu when I sat down; I guess they don't have any specials because they didn't tell me about anything. The wine list here sucks rocks if you drink red wine; one Pinot Noir @$15, nothing italian and nothing under $10. $10 a glass for wine that's $10/bottle. I ordered an Abita Turbo Dog and a "baby" wedge salad.
I can tell from the menu that there's nothing worthwhile going in the kitchen here; no chef with any self-respect would serve Cajun Pasta or Hawaiian Skirt Steak; This is a TGI Friday's menu. When there's a lot of asian influence you know that they don't have any real ideas. They use the CAB program for beef; and adhere to the usual trick of trying to pass off beef marginally better than choice at Prime prices.
Grille 401 uses a PR company known for "marketing" restaurants with false messages, and this restaurant fits the bill perfectly. They have 3 restaurants that serve similar menus, and now all of a sudden they're claiming to use "local" sources; except there's no specific commitment to what dishes are local. There's also nothing "seasonal" about the menu as they claim. It's a stupid concept that appeals to few and fools even fewer; why so many restaurants buy into using losing concepts is somewhat of a mystery, particularly as evidence mounts that it doesn't work. Their web site is riddled with questionable claims and "reviews" from the kind of publications that do friendly reviews for PR agencies. It's unfortunate that the "media" in South Florida has become such a joke. When restaurants can get rosy reviews from local clown-act critics they just get the false sense that they have a good restaurant, and everyone suffers as a result. If you wonder why there are few if any really good restaurants in Fort Lauderdale; the reason is the that all of the local "critics" care more about pandering to restaurant owners and PR agencies than they do telling the Truth to their readers.
There was a group of dudes from a bachelor party who were loud and stupid at some tables behind me; I was thinking why would someone decide to have a bachelor party at a frooffy restaurant bar with no man-food and no babes? The salad came out pretty quickly, thank goodness.
Grille 401 Baby Iceberg Wedge
They're making a mistake calling this a "baby" wedge salad, because the implication is that it's small. I doubt if many people know what baby iceberg lettuce is. This dish was a mixed bag; good lettuce and blue cheese dressing, but chopped tomatoes, no red onion and bacon bits that were more chewy than crispy. There was also a piece of bone; and we all know that real bacon doesn't have bone. Chopped tomatoes are usually an indication of lower quality; certainly not as good as a thick slice of a ripe beefsteak.
I could have used some more dressing, but I made due with what they gave me. Better than the junk I got at Rice and Dough and a lot more food than you get for more money at YOLO.
I couldn't wait to cash out and watch the end of the heat game at The Royal Pig, where a pretty, smiling girl would pour me a cheap but decent $8 Pinot Noir.
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