This morning we made a trip to the reconstructed, renovated, reinvented Atlantic Grille in Middletown. While the restaurant re-opened a week ago, I’m not sure it has survived the transition so well.
First, it’s important to understand what we always liked about the “old” Atlantic Grille. Besides proper-good greased-up morning diner fare, there was that excitement and energy you only get from a crowded counter and an open kitchen window. Breakfast theater at its best! Despite the inevitable weekend-morning crush, we could always find a seat, mingle with the throng, enjoy the show, enjoy the food, enjoy the atmosphere, and heartily tip this fine entertainment.
It was, no doubt, the crush and bustle that had the ownership looking to expand; more room to handle the covers, and a lounge/bar area to bring in the after-breakfast crowd. In many ways, “on paper”, it looks like they have achieved that goal. The new layout is clean, efficient, organized, and obviously expertly planned and executed. It is indeed a fine amalgam of modern food-service design principles, commercial interior design, and thoughtful craftsmanship. This is also why it just happens to suck balls.
The new Atlantic Grille is as close to a TGI Fridays-by-the-sea as I can imagine. The new decor and even the new cutlery and flatware contrast all-too-sharply with what has always been otherwise excellent working-man fare. When I watch a cook sweat and a server hustle, I empathize and understand, I expect only the best of their efforts in that particular space and place in time. In the bustling and oft-times turgid world of the short-order breakfast fare, customers and patrons earn one another’s respect in a certain theatrical round.
On the other hand, I expect nothing from a molded and pressed cookie-cutter franchise. In such a place, I expect my food and service to come to me smooth and facelessly, and as such, it is an experience I most often choose to avoid. Put it this way: while the Atlantic Grille has done a beautiful and exacting job of reinventing itself, it now has less character than a Newport Creamery.
Still, they are local, and the food isn’t bad. There’s little fear of finding room for that last-minute breakfast party when friends/family come calling. Unfortunately, for me at least, it seems as though the Atlantic Grille may have sold it’s soul, and in doing so, lost my heart.