WATERFORD -- There is a special place in my heart for McGreivey’s Restaurant. It was the first restaurant we visited after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. It provided a gateway to some normalcy, and when the server placed a gorgeous steak dinner in front of me (that I didn’t have to cook) it seemed too good to be true.
We’ve been out to dinner a few times since, always at the mercy of the weather, which has been way too cold and then way too hot. Now, husband Eric and I were looking forward to dinner inside the restaurant in Phase 4, with no worries about the weather.
“The AC is on the fritz,” said the hostess. “You can eat inside or out.”
So we were back outside again on a warm evening, along with three other groups spread out around the spacious, flower-filled courtyard that seats up to 120.
This time, McGreivey’s had their full menu up and running. We were glad to see the familiar multi-page, plastic-covered menus, slightly damp and smelling of sanitizer.
Eric sipped his Beefeater martini (up, with a twist of lemon) and I enjoyed a glass of Thresher Sauvignon Blanc, a budget-friendly but full-flavored, respectable wine from the Central Valley of Chile. “Life is not always ideal,” he said, referring to the state of the air conditioning.
McGreivey’s menu features various steaks and some seafood, in addition to burgers, sandwiches and salads at prices that, inside their more formal dining room, seem like a bargain. Outside, or in the pub section of the restaurant, they seem just right.
We’ve visited McGreivey’s on several occasions with friends and family, and can tell you that the food, whether casual or more upscale, has always been good, although Eric would prefer they didn’t cook their shrimp so long.
We enjoyed McGreivey’s signature Irish soda bread, which is not especially sweet but topped with crunchy sparkling sugar. It’s a clever way to get to the right amount of sweetness.
We shared an appetizer of coconut shrimp ($10), butterflied, super crispy and golden, bristling with crunchy coconut. It comes with a spicy citrus marmalade which was, Eric said, “not too sweet.” I liked the bits of orange peel and vinegary aroma, but thought the shrimp was good enough on its own and didn’t use much. Five large shrimp proved just enough, and neither of us found the shrimp overcooked.
McGreivey’s had several specials that night, which was also a sign that things were getting back to normal, and of those I ordered the Caprese chicken dish with penne pasta ($22). “Good choice,” said our server, who approved of everything we ordered and took very good care of us throughout the evening.
A boneless, skinless grilled chicken breast topped with pesto was arranged over a bowl of penne pasta mixed with spinach, bits of mozzarella cheese and garlic, and halved cherry tomatoes. The sliced chicken was juicy and soft, perfect for dragging through the buttery sauce at the bottom of the bowl. The sauce soon evenly mixed and coated the rest of the ingredients, and the mozzarella bits melted and made strings. A perfect forkful had one penne, half a juicy cherry tomato and spinach dragged through the sauce, the addition of a piece of chicken nice but not even necessary.
It was very good, but just one ingredient short, and we were surrounded by it: fresh basil. In the windows around the courtyard walls are planters full of fresh herbs, already well-developed and vigorous, much of it basil. The pesto on the chicken was adequate but gave way to the garlic in the sauce. Topped with fresh basil, sliced chiffonade, or whole leaves tossed with the pasta instead of the spinach would have moved it from good to outstanding. If I wasn’t with Eric I’d have picked some myself.
Art Riley Jr., part of the family that owns the restaurant, said the kitchen uses the courtyard herbs every day, and that the Caprese dish should have used it. His mother, Mary Ann, spends a good part of her day tending to the numerous planters of flowers and herbs, in addition to making desserts.
Eric was enjoying a dish of salmon and scallop risotto ($26), a lovely dish accented by roasted red pepper cream sauce. The rice was enhanced with Marscapone cheese and topped with the roasted red pepper cream, a good companion for the seafood. The four large scallops were seared to a beautiful bronze and he called them “melt in your mouth” tender. It was topped with a piece of grilled salmon.
Eric remarked that each kind of seafood was a serving in itself. The whole thing, which he couldn’t finish, was “delicious.”
Never one to miss dessert, Eric ordered chocolate mudslide pie ($9) to go. It’s a generous slice, chocolate cookie crust filled with Kahlua and Baileys Irish Creme-enhanced ice cream, enough to share.
Riley said they made a company decision to keep all back-of-the house staff during the pause. “It paid off when we reopened,” he said.
McGreivey’s is in our regular restaurant rotation for its excellent steaks, reasonable prices and dependable service. Well, as far as our regular rotation goes these days. With that in mind, and the fact that it is locally owned, it should be in yours, too.
WHERE: 91 Broad St., Waterford; (518) 238-2020; www.mcgreiveys.com
WHEN: Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $67 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit Cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. Parking lot on side of building. ADA compliant.