She ate / He ate: Hits and misses at the Stillwater Grill

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She Ate: Hits and misses at the Stillwater Grill

Cajun tenderloin tips ($15.95)

Although it has been open for many years, I have only been to Stillwater Grill a handful of times. My two recent experiences there can be summed up as inconsistent.  

A few weeks ago, a girlfriend and I met for dinner on the patio. There was live music, which was lovely, and our server was extremely knowledgeable and attentive. 

We started with the crispy fried Brussels sprouts ($10.95). Brussels are one of my favorite vegetables, although I know they’ve been replaced in food trends with the unexpectedly Gen Z-friendly workhorse, cauliflower. These Brussels were crispy, tossed with parmesan cheese, pecans and a balsamic glaze. They were perfectly savory, and the texture was spot-on. I moved on to the chicken Cobb salad ($15.95). The romaine was fresh and crunchy. The sliced avocado was wonderfully ripe and creamy. The hard-boiled egg and crumbled bacon added a bit of textural complexity. I was surprised, however, with the shredded cheddar cheese. While I admit to not being careful when reading menu descriptions, I expected blue cheese on a Cobb salad. 

Stillwater Grill | 3544 Meridian Crossing Dr, Okemos
(517) 349-5039 | stillwatergrill.com
M-W&Sa: 4 p.m.-10 p.m. | Th-F: noon to 10 p.m. | Su: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

I also ordered an exceptional side of truffle fries ($4.95). To call these “fries” is a misnomer; they are fat potato wedges topped with parmesan and truffle oil. They were fantastic.  

On a return visit, Ms. She Ate and I braved a sit-down restaurant with our young children but had the forethought to bring a few snacks to tide them over. Good thing because the service was slow and clunky. Do you like to drink water while you eat dinner? Well, you only get one glass until you beg for more. We started with calamari ($14.95). The breading was heavy and greasy, and the accompanying saffron aioli was flavorful but could barely cut through the fried coating.  

I remember hearing about the Cajun tenderloin tips ($15.95) and chose them for my entrée, with a baked potato on the side. When I think of tenderloin, I think of the beef I always make for Christmas Eve dinner. It is velvety, juicy and practically melts in your mouth. It barely needs a sauce because the flavor of the beef is so tantalizing. These beef tips, for the sake of comparison, were coated in a thick layer of vaguely spicy “Cajun” sauce, which covered up many sins. The texture vacillated between being fine and almost inedible due to its chewiness. The baked potato was basic and boring, but it won’t offend anyone.  

Mr. She Ate chose the honey mustard chicken club sandwich ($12.95). Again, Stillwater has messed around with time-honored traditions. When most people think of a club sandwich, they think of a triple-layer sandwich on bread. Nothing in the menu description prepared him for the fat, unwieldy chicken and bacon sandwich on a hamburger bun, and while he ate it because we were starving by this time, he wouldn’t order it again.  

The She Ate children enjoyed their noodles with red sauce, chicken tenders and French fries, but if your child is expecting spaghetti, be forewarned: They’ll be getting fettuccine. Kids’ meals also came with a scoop of ice cream, and we waited so long for the dessert that I was certain we’d been forgotten. Evidently, the only option is vanilla because that’s what we got without any discussion. Vanilla is an apt description for Stillwater Grill, come to think of it. I didn’t leave offended, but I certainly won’t be making a special trip back. 

 

He ate: Hits and misses at the Stillwater Grill

Crab-Stuffed Salmon ($31.95)

Overall, the food scene in Lansing is burgeoning, with fantastic finds in an array of genres and flavors. One can also find a good meal for a relatively reasonable price across the tri-counties. Yet, the upper end of the spectrum often leaves patrons wanting more.  

I struggle even to count the number of restaurants in the area that could qualify as fine dining. That’s not to say there aren’t fine options because there are plenty not draped in traditional fine dining pageantry. Most of Lansing’s finer options are styled as grills, steakhouses and taverns with exciting menus, comfort food and specialty cocktails.  

Such is the case with Stillwater Grill, an institution at the corner of Jolly and Okemos Road for several decades and has served as a flashpoint for much of the surrounding developments. Stillwater Grill has strong roots in New American cuisine and décor. Like its sister location in Brighton, the ambiance is part intimate dining, part watering hole, thanks to its massive bar anchoring the space.  

The Stillwater team was welcoming and accommodating, but I wondered if the staffing challenges hitting so many local businesses prevents it from being open for lunch, as I’d unsuccessfully attempted on a previous visit.  

What’s parched 

I enjoy seafood. I dine on some variation at least twice per week. When I find a seafood dish I like, I often return for it. Stillwater Grill does a nice job with the presentation, and the first dish looked the part. Sadly, the Crab-Stuffed Salmon ($31.95) missed the mark. The fish itself was far drier than I expected from a stuffed dish. It barely flaked when it encountered my fork, and the roasted pepper, spinach and crab stuffing was nothing I’d qualify as shellfish or even an imitation. The loaded baked potato with cheese, chives and bacon offered a welcome distraction, along with the nicely steamed broccolini. However, even more disappointing than the fish itself was the lemon caper beurre blanc sauce. It was overly sour, and I wondered if it was fresh. At this price point, I expected more.  

What’s saucy 

I enjoy Brussels sprouts ($10.95), and the flash-fried version here is a strong entry. Shaved parmesan, pecans and a maple-balsamic glaze all worked in tandem. The Point Judith Calamari ($14.95) was also excellent, with a fantastic saffron aioli that’s light and flavor-packed. My kiddos enjoyed the Chicken Tenderloin Platter ($17.95), and I’m here to testify that the more-honey-than-mustard dipping sauce was among the best I’ve had. My much better half relished the Lobster Bisque (Bowl, $10.45), commenting on the subtle sherry flavor and chunks of seafood. I found it thicker than I anticipated and lacking a pinch of salt. Overall, it was respectable.  

Best bites 

While it was hard not to list some of the dipping sauces here, the tried-and-true Cajun Beef Tenderloin Tips did not disappoint. Cooked to a perfect medium rare with a great seared crust on the outside, the tips are bathed in a flavorful Cajun butter that is not overpowering. I enjoyed them as part of a Create Your Own combination ($29.95) with a tasty shrimp skewer. Further, the accompanying truffle steak fries that amounted to a whole russet potato were wonderful, with a generous double dose of parmesan cheese on the fries at the bottom of the heap. The side Stillwater salad was also a pleasant surprise with their Dijon vinaigrette, dried cherries and blue cheese crumbles. Stillwater Grill continues to be a strong culinary option in the area.

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