Name: California Grill
Location: 912 Vestal Parkway East, Vestal, NY 13850
Phone: (607) 741-4062
Price: $30-40 for two
So far, I think most of my reviews on this site have been positive in one way or another. With a place like Cyber West, for example, where I didn't care for the food, I was able to highlight the atmosphere, the great tap selection, and the excellent desserts. With Kelly's, I was able to recommend the wings. California Grill is where the buck stops, a truly dismal restaurant and one to which I will never return.
California Grill is located out on Vestal Parkway right near where Route 17 meets Route 26. It's not far from the Full Belly Deli, where I was the other day. Having lived several years ago near the Four Corners in Vestal, I drove past the California Grill on a daily basis. I always wondered if it was any good. I should've kept wondering.
The place is diner-like upon entry. There are tables straight ahead and in a room off to the left. There's a bar in the far left corner of the place with such favorites as Bud Light and Labatt on tap. Yes, I'm being sarcastic. Anyway, we went at an off time and were seated promptly. I didn't have a problem with the service; the waitress was adequate and brought out the food and drinks fairly quickly.
The menu has a long list of appetizers, with interesting-sounding items like Fried Pickles, Southwestern Egg Rolls, and Chicken Satay Skewers. They had a deal called the "Tidal Wave" whereby you could sample all three of these delicacies, which we opted to go with:
There we have it. A pretty sorry looking plate of food. Those burned-looking things in the upper right are the egg rolls. The egg rolls came with a chipotle dipping sauce which was OK. Aside from being somewhat burned, the egg rolls were mildly decent and could pass as acceptable bar food. The pickles are there in the foreground, served with ranch dressing. Interesting to see fried pickles on the menu, and worth a try I guess, but not something I would order again. The "chicken satay" skewers were, as Megan put it "lukewarm and teriyaki-ish" and served with a truly odd peanut dipping sauce that tasted like barbecue sauce mixed with peanut butter. Weird, and not in a good way.
For the main course I opted for something called the California Burrito which consisted of marinated steak, Mexican cheese, sour cream, and french fries(!) in a flour tortilla split in half, served with chips and salsa on the side.
I thought this ended up being less a burrito and more like a fajita wrap or something like that. The steak tasted alright but there wasn't much of it to be found. Instead, the entire thing was dominated by the taste of french fries. Now, mind you, the fries weren't bad for diner fries. But they did not pair well with the rest of the burrito. I kept thinking the whole time how I could get a similar, but better, plate of food at Applebee's or TGI Friday's, for less money. That is never a good sign.
Megan got the Chicken Club Tacos and I snagged a few bites, hoping for something better than my own entree. Indeed, hers was a better choice and exactly what you would expect them to be. Chicken tacos with the classic club sandwich ingredients, bacon, lettuce, tomato... It was better than what I got, but average at best. Hers came with a dish of rice and a dish of black beans on the side. The rice was typical Spanish rice while the beans were flat-out disgusting. I would not wish those beans on prisoners.
We did not stick around for dessert, opting to go ahead and pay the $40 check instead. Yup, $40. I could've gotten the same at Applebee's for $25-$30, but so it goes.
I wish I had better things to say about our experience at the California Grill, but it really was truly bad. It is clear that whoever made the food did not put much, if any, effort or care into its construction. The egg rolls were burnt, and my "burrito" was a complete conceptual failure with the french fries dominating every bite. The only positive was the relatively quick service. Granted, we were the only ones in the place. Now I know why.