For starters, Garage Bar and Grille excels

Appetizers are top-notch but sandwiches fail to meet full potential

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Why:The Garage Bar and Grille opened in September to patrons 21 and older with beer on tap, a full bar and food offerings. The space offers a social, lively vibe. The menu includes weekly specials and made-from-scratch selections that may very well make it a favorite go-to place for those looking to avoid the family dining crowd.

Atmosphere: Large-screen TVs, Big Buck Hunter and PGA Golf arcade games, pinball, a jukebox and a pool table provide entertainment beyond conversation. Neon signs, corrugated metal and concrete lay the foundation for the garage-meets-bar decor vibe. Seating consists mostly of high tables and bar stools, with a couple of booths situated near the entrance. Toolboxes have been cleverly used to hold souvenir shirts. Overall, the bar has a clean, comfortable and roomy feel.

What I tried: I ordered the Artichoke Spinach Dip and the Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers for starters and the Pulled Pork Sandwich and the Meatball Sub.

Both the dip and the poppers were served with light, crisp tortilla chips (although the menu noted the dip was served with pita bread), and both offered an appetizing start to my meal. The dip was more of a creamy rendition of this popular choice, with a layer of melted cheese on top. The texture of the dip could be characterized more by cream cheese than the other elements, and the flavor by an even blend of ingredients, without any particular one taking center stage. The poppers were an impressive creation of fresh, whole peppers stuffed with a delicious cream cheese and pulled pork blend and wrapped, lengthwise, in meaty bacon slices. Three of these sat atop house-made barbecue sauce and melted cheddar cheese in a petite iron dish. Of the two starters, the poppers were my favorite. They were a very welcome departure from the typical premade sort.

I found the pulled pork sandwich better than the meatball sub. Both left room for improvement. The pork sandwich, made with a generous amount of lean meat, was served on a bun that was grilled and tasted strongly of browned butter. The apple coleslaw that was added to the sandwich was fresh and delicious but there was a scant amount, well out of balance with the pork. More slaw would have definitely bumped it up a notch. The meatball sandwich was served open-faced and likewise had a few areas that could use improvement. The meatballs had a classic Italian seasoning and were pleasantly absent any gristly texture — a huge plus. But the sauce lacked sufficient flavor. There were two large slices of provolone cheese on top, but the sandwich needed more wow that should have been provided by a rich, robust sauce. Both sandwiches were served lukewarm.

I enjoyed the fries that were served with the sandwiches. They reminded me of In-N-Out Burger's, if there was a well-done version of them.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Prime Rib is served twice a month on Saturdays. The Wedge Salad, made with butter lettuce, sounded intriguing, as did the Garage Bar Burger made with all the fixings: two half-pound meat patties, bacon or ham, a fried egg and cheese. Whole and half deli sandwiches on your choice of bread are available. Breakfast includes traditional selections such as oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes. The Garage Bar Burger is available at breakfast as well.

Other observations: I enjoyed the atmosphere and found the service friendly and attentive. I would definitely order the starters again. I believe both of the sandwiches that I tried have great potential and with a few improvements could hit the mark.

Cost: Breakfast ranges from $4 to $12. Lunch and dinner starters cost $3.50 to $10. Soup is $4 for a cup and $6 for a bowl. Salads are $4 to $9. Burgers, sandwiches and wraps are $6 to $12. Specials include $10 Fish-and-Chips on Fridays, as well as a twice a month $19 Prime Rib (12-ounce) or Bacon Wrapped Filet (6-ounce) on Saturdays.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Telephone: 360-693-9200.

Where: 1101 W. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver. Facebook is the best source to keep abreast of current information on the Garage Bar.

Health Score: Garage Bar and Grille has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled to receive a routine inspection in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.