When you hear a name like “The Grand America,” what words come to mind? Luxurious, certainly. Bougie, perhaps. Expensive, historically accurate. While these descriptors are some that the venerable hotel has worked to identify with for just over 20 years, they are now extending a hand to another audience. Their newest dining space, Laurel Brasserie & Bar, opened its doors last November and is already raising eyebrows with its approachable menu prices and uninhibited quality.
Upon entering Laurel Brasserie & Bar, you’re met with the noise of bustling bargoers, kind waitstaff and the scent of fresh-baked pizza. The joint bar and dining room maintain the integrity of The Grand America, without the blue-blooded personality that can make some (me included) feel like they are trespassing on a highbrow dinner party. The interior is decidedly casual, with upscale modern-day touches reminiscent of an East Coast eatery. The bar area features a two-sided service station that splits an informal barstool-only space and a more private area lined with swanky booths and a fair share of flatscreens. A bay of windows flood the space with light and offer glimpses of the luminescent bar to passersby across the stress.
Food and beverage offerings focus on classic European cuisine with an American approach. Early birds can enjoy traditional breakfast items, or grab a quick coffee-to-go at their in-house patisserie Bonne Vie, open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Lunch is served on the weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with menu highlights including Potato Gnocchi, Short Rib Beef Sandwich, and Nicoise Salad, all for under $20. The dinner menu is ostensibly filled with delicious dishes like the Brined Bone-In Pork Chop and the Pan Seared Branzino. But the real star of the show is the Happy Hour menu.
For food, the happy hour menu offers both snacks and full-size meals. The Margherita pizza is well worth its $8 price, and the Pumpkin Arancini (a rice fritter stuffed with mozzarella and aioli) is a can’t-miss favorite. Another tip: Don’t sleep on the Pigs in a Blanket.
Everyone’s favorite time of day gets a little sweeter with a $10 cocktail in hand, and most would be surprised to learn that Laurel Brasserie & Bar offers just that. Their reasonably sized drink menu comprises 10 cocktails using local spirits and fresh ingredients. The Smokey Paloma was my personal favorite (adding mezcal to any drink is a win in my book). Other stars were the Clover Club and the Great Basin Sour. The libations menu also addresses the nondrinkers by offering four delicious mocktails that use more than two ingredients.
Laurel Brasserie & Bar is a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene, and succeeds at providing a grand experience without the lavish price tag. Visit the bar 11 a.m. to midnight everyday, and stop in for happy hour 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. daily.