Seafood Fix 

The North Side’s L.A. Grill ain’t the beach, but it’s pretty darn close.

But it’s the food that keeps ’em coming back. Steamer baskets of oysters, clams and crayfish are offered as well as an array of grilled and fried seafood dishes. For the non-seafood eater, a London broil, house smoked barbecue or smoked beef short ribs are in order. Prices range from $5.95 to $12.95 for appetizers and $12.95 to $18.95 for entrees with array of country-style sides such as collard greens, creamed potatoes and bacon-fried apples offered alongside.

A crispy fried oyster appetizer is one of the best in town. Served with a spicy aioli (a cayenne-infused mayonnaise) the oysters are plump, juicy and flash fried to perfection. Oysters Rockefeller are another excellent bet, with mounds of fresh spinach and just the right hint of cream allowing the natural brininess of the shellfish to shine through. A standard shrimp cocktail is served in a martini glass and brims with jumbo-sized shrimp. A tangy horseradish-laden cocktail sauce rounds out this classic combination.

For a light dinner, the Big House Salad topped with tuna is a nice bet. An oversized salad of mixed greens, tomatoes and a few cucumbers is topped with a large slice of grilled tuna. For a salad, it’s adequate, although the tuna tasted somewhat overcooked and chewy. On the other hand, jumbo shrimp fettuccini is exactly that. Oversized shrimp tossed with marinara (sauce choices also include Alfredo, spicy tomato and lemon, garlic and olive oil). The fettuccini was properly al dente, but the marinara, while fresh tasting, was a bit one-dimensional in flavor. The jumbo crab cakes are a better bet. They are served with L.A. rémoulade (think spicy aioli). Again, the word “jumbo” earns its moniker. Two, very large, melt-in-your-mouth crab cakes arrived easy on the breading and heavy on the crab. A side of stone-ground garlic cheese grits (not instant grits here) was an excellent side, as were the hush puppies. Crunchy and oniony, they were some of the best hush puppies I’ve had.

Slow roasted pork loin is a nice option, although unusual in presentation. Instead of the customary sliced-on-the-bias-pink-in-the-middle pork loin, braised pieces of pork were tossed in a light, Italianesque brown gravy and served with a side of sage-seasoned hominy (milled corn similar to grits). A nightly special of soft shell crabs was generous with three sizeable crabs dusted with flour and Old Bay and sautéed until browned. They could have benefited from a few more seconds in the pan and a little less Old Bay.

Desserts include a key lime pie ($3.95) and a chocolate molten cake ($4.50). Both were satisfactory — the pie tangy and fresh and the cake gooey on the inside, although a bit dry on the outside.

The bottom line here is that this place is laid-back. I recall seeing a “Gone Fishin’” sign posted out front more than once. Pricing is fair for fresh seafood, portions are generous and quality above average. And it’s because of these things that the L.A. Grill does a considerable amount of repeat business. There’s a full house nearly every night. So, put on your flip-flops — it’s not the beach, but for a second you might feel like it is. S

L.A. Grill
5516 Lakeside Ave.
Lunch and Dinner: Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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