Grant House: Good food in historic setting

Appetizers, desserts especially satisfying at classy restaurant

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Why: If you have lived in Clark County for some time, then it is likely that you are familiar with The Grant House on Officers Row in the Fort Vancouver National Site. However, if you are new to the area, then this is for you. The Grant House is part of our military legacy, named in honor of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, where the general met with his officers during his time at the Vancouver Barracks. The house offers a romantic, peaceful setting for lunch and dinner and many occasions where dining is incorporated, such as receptions, business meetings, private parties, etc.

What I tried: My dining companion and I started with the baked brie appetizer. I settled on the quiche of the day, which is accompanied by the winter salad and fresh fruit. My dining companion had the panini with yam bisque. For dessert we had the s’mores chocolate torte.

The highlights of our lunch were the appetizer and the dessert. The brie was surrounded by a light, crispy puff pastry that had been baked to a golden finish with the melted brie within. Alongside was a honey, apple, and pear compote and a few crackers. The compote consisted of levels of sweetness — from the saturated sweet that honey possesses to the tangy sweet of the fruit. It paired perfectly with the baked brie to create a wide spectrum of delight on the palate. The crackers added yet another layer of texture when topped with some of the brie, pastry and compote.

The quiche of the day on my visit was bacon, bell pepper, mushroom and cheddar with fresh herbs. For all the ingredients it contained, it was rather mild. The salad combined grapefruit sections, roasted feta and toasted walnuts with the field greens and the perfect amount of house-made poppyseed dressing to enhance the salad’s mix instead of smothering and dominating it, as is the case with some restaurants in their exuberance to wow diners. Fresh strawberries and grapes completed my lunch medley.

My dining companion enjoyed the Cuban-inspired, Indian-style, flat bread grilled panini, which was filled with thinly sliced ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and coarse mustard spread, until he encountered a very large piece of chewy fat in the pulled pork. From that point, he proceeded with trepidation. He found the yam bisque had a farm-to-restaurant quality and appetizing, winter comfort character. The silky, creamy bisque is made from local yams with bits of sausage and brie mixed in.

The sweet, Belgian dark chocolate torte melted effortlessly away with every bite. It was lightly coated in graham cracker crumbs and topped with toasted, gooey marshmallow, which imparted a hint of campfire in the midst of finer surroundings.

Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The flat bread appetizer smothered in aged gouda and ricotta spread and topped with roasted butternut squash, crispy kale and caramelized onions sounded intriguing, as did the spinach salad, which combines spinach tossed with roasted brussels sprouts, peppered bacon, roasted red peppers and white balsamic vinaigrette. Among the lunch sandwich choices are a meatball marinara, veggie burrito and a pastrami Reuben. The Grant burger consists of a half-pound of grass fed beef patty, topped with their signature pimento cheese and traditional burger fixings on a brioche bun. Entrees include a beef pot pie, fish and chips (made with Alaskan cod), and potato and mushroom hash. Dinner entrees add filet mignon, smoked salmon ravioli, curried polenta and shrimp, and a braised pork bowl. Dinner sides include beet risotto, roasted parsnips, braised cabbage and steak fries. Happy hour menu items include tacos made with Asian-style pulled pork, meatball sliders, buffalo chicken tenders, and roasted garlic hummus. Desserts include bread pudding, white chocolate & banana cake, and salted caramel creme br?l?e.

Atmosphere: The house was built in 1850 and was the first structure built on Officers Row. It is constructed of hand-hewn logs that were covered with siding in 1855, though there are places within the house where the logs are still visible. A formal dining room, a bar, the Ulysses Club (reserved for private events), parlors, an outdoor patio and the veranda all provide a glimpse into an era far removed from our present day, and accommodate a finer dining experience than a typical restaurant. Several fireplaces, extensive moldings, old-fashioned-style lighting, exposed brick, wood floors and area rugs all impart a sense of lasting craftsmanship. The music piped in is in keeping with the old-time era and lends to the historic vibe.

Other observations: The service on my visit was friendly and polite. The appetizer plates remained on the table for the entire meal, even after the entree plates were cleared. I ordered tea to drink and was given a full-sized mug, which I found somewhat odd given the caliber of the atmosphere — I expected a tea cup. Catering is available, and boxed lunches (a minimum of 10 people or $125 food and beverage minimum) are, as well. Reservations are recommended.

Cost: Lunch appetizers are $1 to $12. Salads cost $6 to $12 (add salmon or shrimp for $6 or chicken for $5). Sandwiches and entrees range from $11 to $15. Dinner appetizers are the same as lunch. Salads cost $6 and $7. Entrees start at $15 and top out at $33. Sides are $4 to $6. Dessert is $7. Happy hour menu items cost $2 to $13.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Where: 1101 Officers Row, Vancouver.

Contact: 360-906-1101 or www.thegranthouse.us. The Grant House is also on social media for more information.

Health score: The Grant House received a score of 10 on Jan. 19. 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.