Diner: More Than Just Desserts

Glendale's Grand Finale remains the ultimate for special occasions

Special occasions call for special places: a romantic date, a birthday celebration, a Mother's Day brunch. Each requires the proper setting to make the event memorable. Exemplary food and service would enhance the day, as would, of course, to-die-for desserts. Finding a spot that can pull off all this with an air of casual elegance can be a tough task, since only a few restaurants measure up. The Grand Finale, tucked in the heart of the historic village of Glendale, continues to top the list as one of the ultimate special occasion destinations.

The establishment's Victorian charm provides versatility. The two main indoor dining rooms are cozy and romantic, decorated with dramatic lighting, period antiques and lace. The outside "porch" and courtyard with its lively garden are ideal for casual dining. Yet, because of the place's popularity, the unforgettable desserts and the bang of the final bill, most of my few visits have been for birthday or anniversary celebrations.

But you can forget about needing to bring your own birthday cake.

As the name implies, the Grand Finale's desserts steal the show. In a word, they are decadent. Folks definitely leave their guilt and calorie counters at the door. From the moment you enter, servers quickly whisk trays of gigantic cheesecakes and colossal ice cream parfaits to eager, drooling diners.

On my most recent visit with friends, we enjoyed several of the house's finest selections, although one cheesecake slice probably would have been sufficient for four of us to sample. All cheesecakes are made on the premises and likely provide well more than the recommended daily allowance of sugar, butter, cream cheese and everything we've been programmed to avoid. The Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake ($3.95), topped with a cinnamon and sugar streusel, comes with a tiny, creamer-sized pitcher of warm, sugary vanilla sauce — basically the sugar equivalent to mainlining a six-pack of Mountain Dew and a dozen Pixie Stix, but with much more flavor. One slice of the House "Plain" Cheesecake ($3.95) seems to be about one quarter of an entire cheesecake, and again, creamy and decadent.

The Bananas Foster ($4.95) is another customer favorite. The sautéed banana slices with warm caramel sauce are topped with heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream. I can remember as a kid watching the chef prepare this dish at our tableside with a dramatic fiery finale — probably why the place now performs the task behind closed kitchen doors, although I missed the dramatic presentation, even though now I'm an adult. We also sampled one of the evening's special desserts: a whipped, creamy cloud of white chocolate mousse topped with sweet, fresh raspberries. And although my friend tried to justify hers as a mere fruit serving, we weren't buying it. It was just as rich and sinful as ours.

Oh, yeah, the place actually serves meat and vegetables, too. We did start with appetizers, believe it or not. The Artichoke Fritters ($6.50), crisp fried and served with a béarnaise sauce, were a hit. The Bleu Cheese Scallops ($7.50), served atop watercress with crumbled bacon and bleu cheese were tasty, too. We also devoured the basket of homemade rolls and bread sticks brought to us when we arrived.

For our entrées, we sampled menu classics as well as the evening's special. We first enjoyed our salads — crisp iceberg lettuce with fresh dressings (mine was a light sundried tomato vinaigrette) — and soup — a creamy artichoke which my friend described as rich and delicious but not too filling. My husband's Broiled Halibut ($19.95), served with a light cream sauce and capers, was the night's dinner special. The fish was perfect: flaky and moist, yet full of flavor and the sauce was subtle and not overpowering. His side dish of wild rice and steamed vegetables was a nice accompaniment, allowing him to rationalize eating his entire piece of cheesecake (see above.)

Our friend enjoyed his Veal Chop ($26.95), served with garlic spinach and prosciutto in a hearty Morel sauce. All entrées include the option one of Grand Finale's signature crépes as a side, and our friend was happy with his Crépe Champignon (mushrooms) selection. Our other friend enjoyed the Spinach Crépes ($9.95) as her entrée. I recommend the Chicken Duo ($16.95), a combination of two of the house's popular chicken dishes, mustard chicken and ginger chicken. I devoured mine, even with a crabmeat crépe as my side dish.

Sunday brunch is just as hearty as any Grand Finale meal and as decadent as each dessert. The buffet boasts fresh Belgian waffles, poached eggs with bacon, homemade biscuits with sausage gravy, and crépes and quiches as well as an endless list of other choices. I suggest arriving early, since the place fills up minutes after opening on Sundays.

Dinner prices are on the more moderate to expensive end, ranging from around $10 for a crépe entrée to $15 for Chicken Mustard, to around $24 for a filet or steak and shrimp. Add in the price of dessert, a couple glasses of wine and the final bill will easily top the $200 mark for four — another reason why I think of it only for special occasions. However, for those times when you're paying no heed to cost and calories, the Grand Finale delivers the ultimate setting combined with memorable food (and desserts) for an unforgettable event.©

Grand Finale
Go: 3 E. Sharon Ave., Glendale

Call: 513-771-5925

Hours: Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday 11:15 a.m.-4 p.m.

Dinner: Tuesday-Thursday 4-10 p.m.

Friday-Saturday 4-11 p.m.,

Sunday, 5-10 p.m.;

Sunday Brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Closed Mondays.

Prices: Moderate to Expensive

Payment: Major credit cards

Red Meat Alternatives: Plenty of non-red meat options: several fish and seafood selections. Non-meat eaters can choose from salads, spinach crépes, penne pasta with portobello. And, of course, there are those desserts.

Other: Outside tables in cooperative weather. Reservations are only taken for dinner on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednes-day and Thursday.

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