Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Nittty Gritty at Grits

133 West Chapman Ave. #102
Fullerton, CA 92832

When I hear the word grits, my mind automatically thinks of breakfast. There are probably two reasons for this. One reason is that when you are traveling in the south, if your first meal of the day does not include grits, then you have not done a southern breakfast properly. The second reason is because we had a really good breakfast the first time we visited critically acclaimed Grits in Fullerton. I just learned however that Grits also serves dinner, and we were invited to try out some of their latest supper items.

After nearly seven years of writing this blog, I still enjoy media events, but this one had me really excited, and I think a lot of that has to do with the man at the helm of this restaurant, the great, Chef Cody Storts. Chef Cody has been a mainstay in Fullerton for awhile now, working in many roles at Stubik's, Bourbon Street, Hopscotch, The Lime Truck, and Nieuport 17. Grits however is the first restaurant where he is owner, chef, and founder. A spot where he's grown this restaurant from concept to fruition.

With a background in theater, Chef Cody wanted this restaurant to be a culinary showplace, hence the bar seating, with a great view of all the drama of the kitchen right in front of you. The Grit's website boldly proclaims that they exist because, "Fullerton dining needed a kick in the ass." A pretty audacious statement, but one they seem to back up with their philosophy of this restaurant. They look at themselves as a team of leaders, who want to shake up the dining scene, but refuse to be pigeon holed by labels. They are excited by the food they are creating at Grits, and want it to keep evolving, so you might want to order what you like, because it might not be there the next time you visit.

Grits is located just a stones throw away from the rambunctious hub of Downtown Fullerton. Situated a block west of Harbor, they share a small strip mall with  Philly's Best, Kaori Sushi, and Chronic Tacos. Known first as a breakfast/brunch/lunch restaurant, they now are winning rave reviews for their dinner service, and more notably, their monthly beer dinners, which have been described as epic, and I've been advised that I should not miss the next one that features Golden Road Brewing on June 24th. For now though, I was pretty pumped to see what Chef Cody had in store for us on this evening.

Things started out nicely with this good looking Charcuterie Plate, which was loaded with pickles, a variety of cheeses, pickled veggies, and some thick slices of ham. I took it nice and easy to start here, because I peeked at the upcoming items on the menu and decided to save room. See, you can teach an old dog some new tricks. Anyways, I did enjoy the pickled vegetables here, and the one piece of ham that I had was smoked wonderfully. A nice mellow start to my night.

This plate was way more my style, as it featured a very well done Blood Sausage. When most of the people at our media event heard that this was blood sausage, they kind of avoided it, and that was fine with me, as I ate more than my fair share. So much for taking it easy at the start. The sausage had a great flavor to it, and was accentuated with the very good mustard provided. The toasted bread was nice, but I envisioned having this sausage in a bun, and eating it like a bratwurst. That would be epic.

For those of you that know me, or follow this blog pretty closely, you know I'm usually averse to vegetables, but this Salmon Lox Salad was pretty impressive. Sliced salmon was joined by one of the more unique dressings I have seen in awhile, a cumin vinaigrette. This was delicious, and I wanted to sneak some of it out of here. This is one way to get me to eat my produce servings.

The food started coming out quickly now, and it was agony waiting for everyone to get their perfect pictures, because the food all looked so good, and I could not wait to dig in. Starting off the entree portion on this evening was the Pork and Grits. A Dr. Pepper braised pork shank was perched atop some of the best white grits you will ever shovel into your mouth, and the pork was finished off with a dried Bing cherry glace. Wow, just wow. The pork was incredibly tender, and the braise added a great deal of flavor. The cherry glace was subtle, but lingering in the background. I fork battled my table mates for as much of the grits as I could get my hands on. They are that good.

Next up was the Fried Chicken from Grits, which they offer on Sundays as an All You Can Eat Fried Chicken Dinner. After inhaling this poultry, we will definitely be making plans to head back here on a Sunday to partake in this delicious fried chicken, which the menu describes as, "fried chicken that does not suck."  A very apt description indeed. There was a nice crunchy outer shell, and moist, and tender chicken inside. I was also a fan of the provided hot sauce to dip the chicken into, even though this was unnecessary for a lot of my fellow food friends at this event.

I should have taken a picture of the inside of this Meatloaf En Croute, but it was not on my plate too long. I'd describe this as a poor mans beef wellington, but not in a bad way. Instead of the traditional steak inside the puff pastry, Chef Cody substituted meatloaf, and topped this with a hunter sauce, and paired it with a duck fat mash. This is true stick to your ribs kind of food, which I am always a fan of. The meatloaf was very flavorful, the brown hunter sauce went well here, and the duck fat mashed potatoes were incredibly decadent. A very creative plate, and one I have been thinking about ever since.

I don't know why, but I was not expecting a burger on this night, but we were presented with this Big Papa Burger. Not sure of the size of this burger, but I'm putting it in at two-thirds of a pound. The loosely packed beef was topped with Havarti cheese, peppadews, plenty of red cabbage, cilantro, and a Cajun aioli. I really liked this unique burger, which is not like anything I have had recently. The beef was seasoned well, and cooked to a wonderful medium. The red cabbage added some crunch, there was plenty of the very good Cajun aioli on here, and the South African peppadews added a nice sweetness. Also worth noting, the bun held everything together, and was a great vessel for the insides of the burger. Not sure who supplies their bread, but they should be commended.

The last of our entrees came out, and I really did not know what to expect from these Thai Balls. The menu describes these as a buttermilk fried cutlet, with jalapeno, shallots, maple syrup, and fish sauce. Okay, that sounds like an odd combination, but these were a hit with almost all in attendance. I liked the different flavors working together here. You have a sweet and savory thing happening here, and it works well. The pork was delicious, the pancake balls soaked up the syrup, and got me upset that I did not try these when I came here for brunch. The fish sauce was present, but did not overpower, only providing an Asian tinge to this dish. A very well balanced plate in my opinion.

Yes, even with all of this food, there's always room for dessert, especially if dessert is this very awesome Bread Pudding. My friend Anne Marie took a bite of this first, and by her reaction, I knew it was going to be good. Sliced buttered brioche was served with some kind of sauce. To be honest, I heard Chef Cody describing this, but I was in my own euphoric state, and could not be brought out of it, until I cleared my plate. Do yourself a favor, and make sure to try their bread pudding when having dinner at Grits.

After this visit to Grits, I will never make the mistake of thinking of this restaurant as only a breakfast joint again. Chef Cody dazzled with his dinner menu, and I 'd be happy to come back here again for any of these entrees. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to pick my favorite of the night. They were all great. Also, knowing Chef Cody's philosophy of an evolving menu, I look forward to seeing what delicious changes he has in store for us on subsequent trips here. Be aware that dinner is served at Grits only Wednesday through Sunday, so plan accordingly. We are already setting aside some time to partake in their all you can eat fried chicken dinner on Sundays.

I'd like to thank everyone at Grits for this opportunity to try out their impressive dinner items. Many thanks to the man of the hour, Chef Cody Storts, who impressed all of us with not only his culinary prowess, but his willingness to answer all of our annoying questions. I'd also like to thank Beverage Director Mike Ruvalcaba, who has created a masterful beer list at Grits, and is always on the lookout for the next great addition to make the tap lineup. Lastly, I"d like to thank my food bother from another mother, Niyaz Pirani of Knife and Spork PR for this invite, and for putting together such a great group of OC food people. It was truly a pleasure.

For all the latest things happening at Grits, head over to their website here:

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