Brann’s Sizzling Steaks & Sports Grille – Portage
Ugh. I hate oil changes. The two choices are either go to the dealership and wait forever or go to one of those quick lube places and have to deal with a barrage of up-sells. Neither ever sounds fun and I put it off as long as I can.
J’s car was due for an oil change. Actually, overdue and we’re driving home for Christmas soon, so we thought it’s probably time to get it done. Since we had to leave the house anyway, J said we should just go out for lunch.
A few days ago, I saw a commercial for Brann’s Sizzling Steaks & Sports Grille that advertised a two complete meals for $14.99 special. Most of the casual dining chains have been offering this for a while and since Brann’s is a local competitor for the national chains, they probably felt that had to start offering one too.
We have never been to the Brann’s in Portage because we always forget that it’s there. We did eat with my family at the Brann’s on Leonard Street in Grand Rapids after a trip to the John Ball Zoo and everyone really enjoyed.
The Portage location is one of seven in West Michigan and one of nine statewide. It’s really not easy to find the place unless you know it’s there or you’re going to a movie. In fact, that area is so well hidden, we didn’t even know there was a Menards in Portage until today and Brann’s shares a parking lot with it.
The store is on Martin Luther King Drive behind the Crossroads Mall. From the parking lot, you’re looking at the food court entrance to the mall. The only other time we had ever been back there was to see a movie at Celebration Cinema and that was at night, so we weren’t really looking around too much.
The restaurant has the casual dining atmosphere. It’s divided in to two rooms. When you enter the building, you walk down a long hall that overlooks the bar area to find the hostess. We were asked if we wanted to sit in the dining room or lounge (re: bar). We said it didn’t matter until she told us there would be a five minute wait for the dining room..at lunch…on a Wednesday. We chose the lounge.
The lounge is a pretty typical sports bar. There are few booths along one wall, but most of the seating is pub tables. There are TV’s lining the walls and there’s even a pretty cool ESPN style sports ticker that runs above the bar.
A waiter brought over a couple menus and took drink orders. I got a Pepsi, but J ordered a lemonade. They have a number of flavored lemonades and they serve them in whimsical glasses.
We knew we were going to go with the two for $14.99 which is available every day from 3-6 and all day Monday thru Wednesday. There was no mention of it on the menus, but there was an advertising insert on the table that listed the options.
J decided she was going to order a salad so she wanted to order an appetizer as well. That canceled out the cheap lunch I had planned on. We ended up ordering the Buffalo Chicken Dip. The appetizer is homemade tortilla chips with a buffalo dip that includes chunks of chicken. At first, J thought the chips might be stale, but we eventually figured out they were just fresh cooked. Some of the chips were cooked better than others which is why J thought they might be stale. While some were cooked perfectly and very brittle, others were a little underdone and chewy. All the chips were dusted with Brann’s all purpose seasoning. I thought the dip was delicious. It had a hint of hot sauce, but not overpowering. It was very cheesy and a little hard to actually dip with the chips, but worth the effort.
For her entree, J ordered the Michigan Apple Walnut Salad without the grilled chicken. The salad was fresh greens with apples that were supposed to be julienned, but looked more like wedges to me. There were also dried cherries, toasted walnuts, and crumbled bleu cheese with a apple cider dressing. J was most impressed with the amount of cherries, walnuts, and cheese. She said there was more of that than lettuce which made her very happy.
I went totally off my normal dining regiment and ordered the 1 lb. rack of ribs. I almost never do order ribs in a restaurant, but I decided to try something different. I had a burger last time we ate at a Brann’s and while I liked it, I thought I should try something else on the menu.
The ribs were very tender. They fell right off the bone so I could eat them with a fork. That’s a good thing because we asked the waiter to bring some extra napkins (there were none on the table other than the one the silverware was wrapped in) and he never did. I hate eating ribs in public because of the mess, but these weren’t messy and I could easily clean the bone by pulling on the meat with my fork. The sauce was a little sweet and Kansas City style thick. The ribs are slow roasted so I they lacked any sort of a smokey flavor, but the meat was very good and I was very happy with my choice.
My meal came with choice of two sides. I didn’t really want or need two sides so I picked the fries for myself and let J pick one. She picked the macaroni and cheese, but I think she picked it for me. The fries were good, but not great. They were a little limp, but they also had the Brann’s seasoning salt on it which is actually very tasty. The mac and cheese was very underwhelming. J took a bite and said it tasted like the stuff that comes out of the blue box. I didn’t disagree. It was much creamier than the boxed stuff. Just didn’t have a distinct flavor.
My idea when I picked Brann’s was to eat for under $20. The appetizer and lemonade made sure that didn’t happen. Our bill was a little under $28. I think we both liked Brann’s, but this experience wasn’t quite as good as the last one. The two for $14.99 was supposed to come with rolls which we never got and drink refills were really slow. I think they may have been caught off guard with a bus of senior citizens that were taking up the dining room.
Our experience wasn’t bad by any means. Both of us were happy with our meals and we both left stuffed. I would definitely go back and it’s a place I know I can take my family when they come to visit for a solid meal. The food is better than the national competitors and the atmosphere really sets it apart from the kitchy competition.