Alameda Restaurant Review: Gold Coast Grill
By Heather Lyn Wood
Writing always teaches the writer something about him or herself, and in writing this restaurant review, I learned that I’m a bit of a snob. After passing the Gold Coast Grill every day for almost two years, it never once occurred to me to stop in and eat there. Not because I had ever heard anything negative about the service or the food. No, my avoidance was one of pure aesthetics: the Gold Coast Grill just didn’t look that great to me from the outside.
Maybe it was the big white “Lunch and Dinner” banners, or the burgundy scalloped awning, or the neon sign in the window that gave off an “early bird special” kind of vibe. Regardless, something about it turned me off, and I never went. Until another restaurant review deadline rolled around, and I decided to conquer my unexplained reluctance and just go.
Now, the inside of the Grill didn’t immediately dash the doubts I had about the outside. The place is definitely not “hip.” It opened for business in 1992, but certain elements – okay, mostly the brown vinyl booths and “harvest gold” walls – make it look older. There is no design “theme” to speak of, and what little there is has an undertone of what you might call “late 1980s Victorian.” But that is where my criticism must end. Because after a few minutes at the Gold Coast Grill, I realized I had erred in judging the place at all.
While the restaurant is not going to win any interior design awards this year, it has ambiance that far outweighs a few questionable décor choices. There is a live piano player who plays well – something most restaurants no longer offer. There are real white tablecloths, another flourish that seems to be disappearing in all but the most formal establishments. And the service is genuinely polite and attentive. By the time we ordered our first menu item, I was feeling sheepish.
We started with the Greek sampler, a mix of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), tzatziki (strained yogurt), melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), taramosalata (caviar salad) and pita. My dining companion, who is generally conservative in doling out praise, remarked that it was “one of the best things (he’s) had on the entire Island.”
Along with the sampler, he ordered the French onion soup, which was piping hot with cheese, chock full of onions and “exactly like French onion soup should be.” It was served in one of those old-school brown soup crocks, too, also as it should be.
I ordered the blackened red snapper. The fish was soft, fresh, and covered (but not smothered) with a subtle roasted tomato sauce. It was slightly soft in consistency for my taste, but cooked well enough and definitely flavorful. My co-diner ordered eggplant parmesan as part of the $17.95 prix fixe meal, and it was excellent: crisp, thickly breaded, steaky slabs of eggplant with rich marinara sauce, cooked all the way through, Southern Italian style.
Our food came with hot crusty French bread and butter, another nice touch. For dessert, we split the galaktoboureko, a phyllo roll filled with Greek semolina-based custard. It was simple, rich and sweet.
So the Gold Coast Grill did, and didn’t, fit my snobbish assumptions. It is a little frayed and dated and it’s not the place to take out-of-town guests to prove how cool and urban Alameda is. But the food is really good, and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and there’s no place quite like it nearby. I recommend it, and will be back.