Family affair

The Spencer family has made Vista Grille one of their regular dining spots.

The Spencer family has made Vista Grille one of their regular dining spots.

Photo By David Robert

We arrived at Vista Grille, in Sparks on the very cleverly named Disc Drive, fairly early for dinner—about quarter to five. At that time, the restaurant seemed ridiculously overstaffed. There was a large wait staff, a half dozen chefs, a managerial-looking type or two, and at least four hostesses hanging out by the front desk. My initial reaction: How is this place going to stay in business with this many people on the payroll? However, by the time we got to dessert, the joint was bumping, bustling with people, and that enormous wait staff was hustling just to keep up.

The clientele was mostly family groups; many of the tables had three generations present. This is partly because of location—Vista Grille is in the deepest depths of sunniest suburbia—but mostly because it has wide appeal. The restaurant serves good, wholesome, conservative American food—steaks, burgers, seafood, pasta and pizza (those last two are just American dishes with Italian pretensions). The environment is relaxed, but with the nice wood paneling and atmospheric lighting, a notch more posh than comparable chain restaurants.

Vista Grille does seem to cater to family dining—at least, there is a Kid’s Menu. The Burger Dog ($3.99), “a unique burger served in a hot dog bun,” seemed to be a favorite among many of the children near us. But child-haters fret not, there are no dancing animatronic rodents, and the kids were on their best behavior. This is really a fairly elegant place. There’s a reasonable wine list and a fully stocked bar, so even surly uncles dragged along against their will can have a nice time.

We started out with an appetizer order of breaded mozzarella sticks ($5.99). My date, Danielle, described them as “tasting like regular old mozzarella.” I’ll let you decide whether this is a good thing.

I had the barbecue pork ribs (half rack, $10.99). They were good, not super meaty, but juicy, and the honey chipotle sauce was well up to par. However, the side of supposedly “garlic” mashed potatoes tasted just like normal garlic-less mashed potatoes.

Danielle lamented the lack of a vegetarian soup option, and then ordered the vegetarian pizza ($9.99). It comes with the usual vegetable suspects (including artichokes) and a sun-dried tomato pesto. It was tasty, much more so than pizzas often are from restaurants that aren’t really pizzerias, and it was a good deal, a fully loaded pizza. There was enough left over after the meal for us both to eat it for lunch the next day.

For dessert, we had the Rocky Mountain High Mud Pie ($4.99)—and what a commitment it was. Luckily, it’s a commitment to sweetness. There are two kinds of ice cream with a chocolate crust, whipped cream and hot fudge. It’s an enormous, rather intimidating dessert, the kind that’s best split between three generations of a family (Danielle and I nearly died of sugar overdose after finishing the thing by ourselves). And that’s the bottom line on Vista Grille: It’s a nice place to bring the grandparents where the kids won’t complain.