8/12/2013

Marie Callender's Grill

Happy Hour: 3-10 Daily, Sunday All Day










The Place
Marie Callender's Grill is a restaurant in the vein of Chili's and Applebee's based around the famous pies of Marie Callender. There are many Marie Callender's locations scattered around the southwest, but there are only two of the more upscale "Grill" locations. This review is for the Grill Location on Wilshire near the La Brea Tar Pits.

Their happy hour is basically anytime other than lunch: 3-10pm Daily and all day Sunday. It includes a number of entree-sized appetizers, mostly $6, and drinks $2 off their normal prices ranging from $10-14. One strange caveat: you must order a drink per food item you order, in theory because the food is such a good deal and the drinks are not so much.  

Ambiance
Callender's interior feels like you are on a very ornate movie set for a restaurant. Everything is very rustic and somewhat overdone. It feels like the type of place my grandparents would really enjoy being at. Having said that, it had very high ceilings and was certainly nicer than some of the non-swanky places I've been. It was also fairly crowded in the happy hour area, but its size made the crowd unnoticeable. 

They offer three types of seating for Happy Hour: at the bar, at high-top booths around the bar, and outside on the patio. We considered the patio, but no one was out there and we didn't want to be potentially forgotten. So, we opted for a high top booth that was much nicer than normal high-top seating at most places. 

Drinks
Callender's offers its full drink menu at a $2 discount for happy hour, which features draft beers, wines by the glass and a number of cocktails. They do not list the prices for the drinks anywhere--not even on the menu in the restaurant. Not listing the price for a drink makes about as much sense as a ground war in Russia during the winter. Just let me know how expensive the drink is so I can use the alcohol to forget it. We quizzed the waiter for the prices and got a melange of $10.25 and $13.75's before the discount, meaning most of the drinks are in the $9-12 range, which is about as bad as it can get for happy hour. If you average the good $6 price for an entree-sized happy hour with the drink you get about $15-18 for both, which is not as egregious. 

Once getting past the alchemy of drink pricing, I tried the following:

Sterling Silver Margarita - This drink strangely came in a much smaller glass than the other two. It supposedly came with Patron tequila and Cointreau--upscale for happy hour, but tasted pretty standard for a margarita. 

Havana's Own Mojito - The mojito was a good mix of lime, mint and sugar. Again, pretty standard, nothing special but not a struggle to consume. 

Callender's Pink Lemonade - Probably their best of the 3, the pink lemonade was a great mix of alcohol, tart lemon and sweetness. I'd get this one again if given the choice. One negative: it came with a sugar rim that seemed to bleed down the side of the glass making your hands sugary while enjoying it. 

Overall the drinks were decent and two came in glasses much larger than usual for happy hour. Their price was unfortunate but a necessary casualty for their cheap food. They were all a 3 out of 5 on the scale of drink strength.

Sterling Silver Margarita, Callender's Lemonade, Havana's Own Mojito
Food
Callender's offers a variety of $6 "appetizers," pizzas and sliders in addition to a few more expensive seafood ones. I tried the Traditional beef sliders and the Buffalo Chicken sliders. Both were huge portions: 3 of the biggest sliders I have seen with a large helping of steak fries. You won't be blown away by the flavor; it's much closer to the sit-down chain Applebee's type food than LA Gourmet, but it's good and there's a lot of it, especially for the price. This is probably one of the few happy hours you can go to in town where you can get one food item and leave full.

Hamburger Sliders and Buffalo Chicken Sliders with Steak Fries

They also give you huge hunks of cornbread and honey butter before your meal. I like cornbread, so I thought it was good, but it was not earth-shattering to the point where non-conbread eaters will be excited about it.

I'm a little disappointed they didn't have a few slices of pie on the happy hour menu, even though I was pretty full. If it's your signature item, throw it out there.


Service
The service at Callender's was friendly and helpful. Upon arrival it was a bit confusing where the happy hour seating was, but we asked for clarification and were directed around to our options. We then received attentive service throughout the meal. 

Go For
- Being able to have a full meal with one happy hour food item
- Having happy hour pretty much anytime other than lunch
- Feeling like you are in a restaurant movie set
- Staring at large pies in a display case

Potential or Actual Kitschy Name for their Happy Hour: Hap-pie Hour 
The Details: 
Happy Hour: 3-10pm Daily, all day Sunday
Price: $$
Drinks: Cocktails $9-12, Beer, Wine
Food: American $6-9
Parking: They have parking behind the restaurant, but unlike its neighbor The Counter, they charge $3 even with validation, so you may be better off just parking in a metered spot on the street, especially if it's after 7. 

Pros: Large portioned eating options, almost-always happy hour. Many different seating options.

Cons: Pricey drinks, forced to buy them to get the good food deal. Not especially hip decor, but still moderately upscale. Spellcheck and my brain hate the word "Callender's."

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