At long last, Grille 86 finally opened this past Sunday after months of waiting for Storrs Center’s newest and perhaps most intriguing restaurant. The new restaurant, located beside the transportation center and across from Blaze Pizza, has the fun atmosphere of a sports bar with over 30 TVs, jerseys hanging on the wall, a pool table along with potential DJ nights after 11 p.m., while also being a family-friendly place to sit down and eat.
For starters, Grille 86 had a fairly limited menu on its opening day, with only a handful of dishes available. A much larger menu is available on their website and more dishes will likely be available in the coming weeks as the restaurant refines its recipes and chooses where to purchase their locally sourced ingredients. On top of the fact that there was a limited menu, by the time I arrived at around 8 p.m., the restaurant was already out of (or 86’d) several dishes. The restaurant will soon feature an 86 board with daily specials that are out of stock, or 86’d, for the day once all have been ordered.
From what I was able to try out, I was mostly impressed with a few issues of note. First, I tried out the teriyaki chicken skewers, which were cooked very well, but I was slightly disappointed. The taste was there, but could’ve been much better if there was more teriyaki sauce glazed on the chicken. On the other hand, the coca cola chicken wings, which have a similar taste to teriyaki wings in sweetness, were excellent. Each of the wings had a decent amount of sauce, significantly more than the skewers anyway, and were delicious.
The chicken sandwich made with brined pickles and cabbage was very crispy, something I greatly appreciate, and was one of the signature dishes on Grille 86’s menu. The pickle brine is made in-house and is done for 24 hours in preparation for the next day which gives the sandwich a very unique taste, even for someone who doesn’t like that briny taste too much.
I ordered the Jordan 86 burger for myself and was very pleased for the most part. The burger, named after Grille 86 affiliate Jordan Reed who wears No. 86 for the Washington Redskins, is cooked with some or no pink and topped with cheddar cheese, chili and onions and is served with a side of French fries. I chose the some pink option and was very happy with how the beef was cooked. The mix of beef and chili was mouthwatering and is definitely something I’ll be coming back for.
The one issue with the burger was the bun. Since the chili and burger made for an especially messy burger, it was very difficult to keep the bun intact for more than a bite or two. It didn’t affect the flavor but it was a little bit displeasurable. Grille 86’s general manager Michael Texera said that it was something that plagued him personally, as he was still trying to find the perfect, locally sourced bun to add to the burger. So at the very least, it’s good to know the restaurant is trying to improve the quality of their dish.
The fries that came with the burger were cut perfectly. Not too big, not too small. They also had enough salt so you didn’t need to add any, and most importantly, had the perfect crisp to them. Plus, the fries came with a sriracha mayo dipping sauce with the consistency of an aioli that made them incredibly appetizing. I am normally not one to enjoy a mayonnaise-based dip, but this one was particularly good.
All in all, I have to give Grille 86 three out of five stars for the food I tried out on their grand opening. There is a lot of potential for a better rating, however, especially when the full menu comes out and the staff figures out the proper bun for the Jordan 86 burger. I will surely be back soon to see how Grille 86 continues to improve as it makes its imprint on the UConn community.
Tentative Score: 3/5