The Grill Room is one of three Portland restaurants created and run by Harding Lee Smith, who also pays the bills at the Corner Room and the Front Room.

Dubbed an “urban steakhouse,” the Grill Room has been a hot spot on Exchange Street since it opened in 2008.

I love walking into a place where the people are genuinely happy to serve you and proud of where they work. Despite the early time of my arrival, I sat at the bar, ordered a beer and chatted with enthusiasm about the restaurant, complete with complementing colors, elm wood tables and a hand-crafted bar.

The draft beer selection of 12 beers is perfect, featuring Anchor Steam, Shipyard Seasonal, Boddingtons, Ten Penny Ale, Rogue Brutal Bitter, Geary’s Pale Ale, Stella Artois, Gritty’s Seasonal, Shipyard Export, Guinness, Allagash White and Victory.

An expansive wine menu awaits, and you can order by the glass or bottle. With a fully stocked bar that has a large selection of high-end liquors and a multitude of specialty cocktails, the choices are endless. Have a Ruby Slipper ($9) or a Mocha Martini ($10.)

You will be instantly tempted to order some food, and you can thank the open kitchen and wood fire used for cooking for that. People rave about the fried oysters ($10) and the wedge salad here.

Wood-fired pizzas start at $10, and steaks from cattle raised by Wolfe’s Neck Farm are a great option.

For lunch, a pan-seared tuna sandwich ($12) or the steak and cheese ($12) will certainly hit the spot. For dinner, try the hanger steak with cheddar grits for $21 or, if seafood is on your mind, have the rosemary skewered scallops with mushroom risotto for $25.

From 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Grill Room features an amazing happy hour. Several featured appetizers are $3, as well as some wine choices, and all 12 draft beers also go for $3.

This place is upscale while still being casual. It comes highly recommended, and it’s conveniently located in the heart of the Old Port.

 

Amber Olesen is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.