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Dining out

Eatery is all in the family

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May 4, 2008

Oliver's Grille & Pub
765 Boston Road, Groton
978-449-0220
Open Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.; Monday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handicapped

Maybe it's the thick, hand-pressed burgers, the daily soups prepared from scratch, or the homey small-town feel of the dining room. It could be the hand-dipped onion rings that bring in crowds on Saturday nights. It could even be the prices: Dinner for three, including cocktails, appetizers, entrees, dessert, and coffee, ran about $120.

Opened five years ago along one of Groton's few main drags, Oliver's Grille & Pub is the first restaurant of Cheryl Hryniewich and Russell Kimball, siblings who grew up in the business. Their parents owned and operated Depot Square, a small breakfast nook in Littleton for many years. Oliver is their dad's middle name.

"It's family-owned and it's family-run" said Hryniewich. "There's a lot of family that works here."

On the subject of families, the booths in the dining room were filled with them, high chairs, and booster seats on the night I was there with two friends. The bar, located behind the dining room, was also filled.

You won't find eggs on the menu, but you will find some choice slices of bacon in the BLT ($6); the bacon cheeseburger, complete with lettuce and tomato and choice of American, Swiss, or cheddar cheese ($7); and crumbled over the cheesy potato skins ($6.25).

Service is excellent; everyone is exceptionally helpful and informative. Hryniewich herself does a little of everything, including purchasing, preparing, and cleaning, as does her brother. Maintaining local flavor is important, she said, adding that she works hard to purchase as much locally grown produce as possible. Meats, poultry, and fish are always fresh, never frozen.

We started things off with broiled calamari ($7.25) in a pleasantly tangy, chunky marinara sauce. The cook gets high marks for broiling because calamari is not the easiest thing to prepare. This was an ideal appetizer because it was tasty but not filling.

The side salads ($3.75, $6) were a disappointment. The romaine lettuce and vegetables appeared fresh and crispy, but were way too cold. Oliver's French onion soup ($5), served in a broth of beef and burgundy with steam sneaking out of the layer of baked croutons and melted mozzarella and Swiss cheeses across the top, was delicious.

The prime rib special was quite delicious (king size $19, $16 for a queen). Mildly marinated, the meat was a tad fatty, but very tasty and tender. Two sides were included with this and all other entrees. Sizzling Black Angus sirloin tips ($12), a customer favorite, proved another hit. The meat was tender, served with sauteed onions, peppers, and tomatoes.

I opted for the broiled seafood combination of haddock and sea scallops ($14, also available deep fried). The fish was nicely flakey in chardonnay butter with a spattering of bread crumbs.

The seafood is just as popular as the beef items, Hryniewich said, adding that she minimizes her purchases to ensure freshness, so diners had best arrive early if they want to experience the catch of the day. "We have a lot of people who just come here for the scallops, the fresh haddock, the fried clams, the salmon, and the tuna," she said. "I'll take the risk of something running out."

Portions were generous, but there was room for dessert. Our server brewed a fresh pot of coffee for the Irish coffees that we sipped while sharing the homemade brownie sundae with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge ($4.25). Now, really, how can you go wrong?

Hryniewich and Kimball certainly found their niche when they ventured out on their own with Oliver's. Would I expect anyone to travel from, say, North Andover to experience the dining in Groton? Not necessarily, but, if you're in the area, why not stop in?

MAUREEN COSTELLO

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