DINING ALFRESCO – RIPON
• WHAT: Canal Street Grille
• WHERE: 1225 Canal Drive
• HOURS: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-8:30 p.m.
• YELP: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
• WEB: www.canalstreetgrille.com
• PHONE: 209.599.4646
RIPON – Every inch of the Canal Street Grille is spiced with its own charm and elegance, from the wine cellar to its formal dining room to the frosted glass.
But through the bar and beyond the tinted double doors lies an unlikely oasis, a room with a natural view – Canal Street Grille’s revamped patio.
Water pours from a stone fountain that anchors trellises of lush ivy. A lattice ceiling allows the Central Valley skyline, with its sherbet sunsets and cool summer breezes, to seep through.
Pair all of that with an award-winning wine or cocktail, says executive chef John Gardner, and you’ve got a dining experience like no other.
“It has the same ambiance as inside. Really, we see it as an extension of our bar area, where it’s a little more informal,” said Gardner, who has helped oversee the Grille for nearly six years. “You have interaction with people. It’s a social gathering sport and I think that’s what people are attracted to.”
Canal Street Grille has a versatility few in the South San Joaquin County can offer. The restaurant is open for all occasions. It features a formal dining room; private dining room, called The Greene Room; a bar area with tables; and of course, the patio.
“We don’t try to limit our customer base whatsoever,” Gardner said. “Whoever comes, we want them to feel welcome. We’re here for the customer.
“If you want good times and great drinks, we’ve got a great cocktail program. We have the best wine. We want to bring in whoever wants to come in. That’s why, two years ago they revamped the patio two (and) put in the trellises and got it to look nice.”
The trellises act as a barrier, drowning out the sounds of the Union Pacific Railroad and rush hour traffic along Highway 99.
Oh, the freeway?
Canal Street Grille, one of Ripon’s marquee dining destinations, is conveniently located near the Jack Tone Road overpass and can be spotted from the 99. This makes the locally owned and operated business easy to access for guest visiting from outside Ripon’s borders, but it may also raise a few eyebrows on the faces of those looking to dine alfresco.
Will my date be able to hear me whisper “sweet nothings” over the big-rigs rumbling by? Will all the noise – the honks and the screeches – distract me from my taste buds?
Management has done a fine job of creating an atmosphere that coddles – not just caters – to its customers. Two years ago, Canal Street Grille revamped its patio. The landscaped walls keep outside noises and nuisances from hijacking your experience.
“You don’t get much noise from the freeway. When the train passes by, we’ll get that,” Gardner said. “But every restaurant in Ripon has the train go by. You can’t get away from the train. But it’s a good conversation starter.”
The patio is furnished with tables, which can be pushed together to accommodate large parties or separated for a more intimate occasion.
Two TVs are mounted above the doors and fans hang from the cover above. The fans act as a saving grace during warm summer evenings, dispersing cold air while keeping flies off your drinks and plate.
Customers appreciate the comforts they’ve been afforded.
“Every night during the summer it’s full,” Gardner said. “It’s big and spacious, but we don’t overcrowd it. We try to keep it comfortable for people. We’ve got fans and TVs; it really is like a secondary bar.”
Even the menu lends itself to an outdoor dining experience, whether you fancy something light, something fun or a much heavier dish.
Canal Street Grille offers a wide array of salads, including but not limited to: the Fiesta or signature Cobb and chopped salads.
Smear baked brie or a red pepper jelly across toasted sliced sourdough or snack on calamari. The house favorite, though, is the crab-stuffed Portabella mushroom.
There are 10 different sandwiches and a host of burgers to choose from.
If you desire a dish with a little more class and expertise, the filet mignon coupled with the cheddar-infused mashed potatoes and green beans are worth all 2,900 pennies.
“The steaks and the proteins we choose are extremely appropriate for the outdoors. Most associate outdoor dining with family and heritage, so we don’t reinvent the wheel down here. We execute it properly,” Gardner said. “We’ll have things – the ribs, the BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, rib-eye and hamburgers – that are reminiscent of outdoor dining.”