Diner: Not Just Grandma's Restaurant Anymore?

Something for all ages at venerable Silverton landmark

Grafton's was my grandparents' hangout when they were grandparents, not Roaring '20s swingers, or whatever they were called back then. I think they found it safe and predictable as well as reasonably priced for folks on a limited income. I imagine them, suitably hatted and suited, motoring over in their machine to the Silverton landmark, Hilda saying to Edward, "I hope they have pork chops tonight." Hilda couldn't decently cook a pork chop to save her own life, so she relied on Grafton's to do the job. She was terrible with meat, except for meat loaf, but made a great German potato salad.

I like to think I can manage to cook a pork chop as well as other things, so perhaps I expect a little more when I motor over to Grafton's on a weekday night. Located at a major intersection in downtown Silverton on Montgomery Road, the restaurant appears small on the outside, but inside it seems like an endless warren of cozy dining rooms, one after the other, pleasantly decorated in wood tones and textured wallpapers.

Grafton's offers a variety of foods, not just pork chops, and I am ready to sample them. The Chicken Liver Pate ($4.50), scattered with chopped red onions, is a classic standard, slightly sweet, with a coarse, satisfying roughness, although the crackers with it are commercially packaged and crumbling. The Crab Cakes ($7.95) are smoothly processed but manage to retain their crab taste.

Served with seafood and tartar sauce, they are a tad expensive, but a tasty starter to our meal. The Split Pea Soup ($1.95/cup, $2.95/bowl) is not as rewarding. Thin, it lacks the smoky flavor of a ham bone. The Bibb lettuce salad that comes with dinner is too heavily dressed with a honey mustard sauce, but it is redeemed by real bacon chips.

My husband has the special, Soft Shell Crabs (seasonal pricing $19-$22), served lightly sauteed and presented on toast points, and while not bad, they have a slightly undercooked texture. I opt for the Lamb Chops ($23.95), the most expensive item on the menu. Our pleasantly apologetic server, however, soon reports they are unavailable, still solidly frozen. So I order the Salmon ($16.95), gently poached and served with a lemony bearnaise sauce. But, the fish is only partially cooked and needs to return to the grill, or microwave, as the case may be. Hilda would not be happy.

Maybe, to appease her ghost, I should have ordered the pork chops, which come in three incarnations: Honey Mustard Chops ($13.95), Hazelnut Pork Chops ($13.95) or Barbequed Chops ($13.95). These all sound pretty good, as do the steaks. A friend says her ex-husband loves their steaks: Filet Mignon ($17.50, $18.50), Strip Sirloin, ($18.95), and Cal's Choice ($19.50), so maybe we're ordering the wrong stuff. Is red meat the answer?

I decide to try dessert before delivering judgment. The Carrot Cake ($3.95) is blessed with a rich cream frosting to balance the insubstantially textured, but spicy cake. The Kahlua Mousse ($3.95) is a cross between cheesecake and pudding, a smooth and rich taste to balance all the foods before it. Maybe it's a nod to the older folks who eat here, but the decaf coffee is some of the best I've had recently.

It looks like grandparents still like Grafton's: We observe that members of the senior generation make up much of the clientele, although as the evening wears on, some younger people wander in. My husband remarks that it seems the management is trying to appease its solid, older crowd with traditional fare while making overtures to younger foodies with items like Hazelnut Chicken ($13.50), pastas and more seafood items.

I don't know. Places that offer their side orders (choice of two) in small white bowls always make me think of Hilda and Edward, as does the bright overhead lighting that facilitates menu reading. Okay, so I really need it, too.

Yet, in many ways there is much here that is appealing. Grafton's has a funky '50s-style bar, wood-paneled with curved red vinyl banquettes, that cries out for dry martinis and Sinatra drowning out the TV over the bar. This Hilda would not like, but I do. Next time, I'll order a steak, medium rare, and a dry martini, shaken not stirred. And I'll wear my shantung cocktail suit, with a hat, of course. Of that, Hilda would approve. ©


Go: 7314 Montgomery Road, Silverton

Call: 891-2380

Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m. -3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday - Thursday; 5-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Prices: Moderate to expensive

Payment: Major credit cards accepted.

Vegetarian Friendliness: Only a few salads and a pasta dish.

Notes: Shares a parking lot with the Silverton Police Department, so your car is very safe.

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