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January 05, 2010

Best Bites: Norm's Grill

1127 North Avenue, Burlington 862-4300

070 It's a pet-peeve of mine that most spots don't allow customers to try more than one flavor of wings in a moderately sized order. Norm's Triple Crown ($8.99) gave me the opportunity to taste three of the five varieties of chubby chicken parts on the menu. The best of the bunch was the "Manly" buffalo flavor. If you feel like spice, ask for hot sauce — these are not as intense as advertised. If, however, you're in the market for startlingly complex and vinegary poultry, these will make you more than happy. All sauces are homemade, including the rich blue cheese and mild ranch dressings. Even under heavy sauces, the Asian and Buffalo wings stayed crisp. No such worries with the Zing Wings — they're dry-rubbed.

Norm's boasts a remarkably long list of appealing sandwich options, all named after sports figures, but I couldn't resist trying the ribs ($17.99). Marinated in a sauce of apple cider and Long Trail Ale, the tender braised-then-grilled meat benefits from a slight bitterness mixed with sweetness. The chipotle barbecue sauce, brushed on at the end, lends just a bit of tang.

The ribs were swell, but the sides were even better. The fries on the overflowing plate were cut bistro-thin and battered. Picture an upscale version of Burger King's. The night's veggie was grilled asparagus — perfectly seasoned, slightly al dente and truly exquisite.

072 Feeling more like pizza? It's made from scratch with a supremely satisfying chewy thin crust. The barbecue chicken pie ($12.99) had both tomato and barbecue sauces, which combined for a tangy, smoky but still fairly traditional taste. Chunks of white meat chicken were large, tender and remained juicy, as did the onions. Both pizza and ribs made it home for a second round. Needless to say, I'll have to wait for next time to make room for the Molten Lava Cake.

The food at Norm's grill was ok. Server was a nice kid. The owner, sorry to say, was a jerk. When he was carrying out a case of beer to the bar he asked our son to please move aside, which our son did even though the owner had plenty of room to walk around the kid. The owner then came back and in a rather rude and somewhat loud way said "Would you move to the side sir". This was after waiting for a table for a while, and the owner passing us several times and not so much as welcoming us or giving us any idea how long the wait would be. I don't think I saw the guy smile once while I was there.

We were about to leave but at that moment one of the staff came over and said a table was ready. Since it was such a snowy night we figured we would just stay where we were.

I can understand this type of treatment at some gin mill bar where you may have a rowdy bunch of college kids crowding the waitress' service area, but not at a restaurant that is catering to families.

Then the owner spent several minutes speaking to the next table where the former mayor of Burlington was sitting. Yet he didn't seem to have the time to ask us how our meals were, although after seeing how unkind he was to our son at the door it doesn't come as much of a surprise.

I doubt he treated the folks in Nantucket that way. Maybe he did which is why he is back here.

We will be sure never to visit his establishment again and will be sure to let people we know about our treatment there.

We love Norm's Grill!!! Like every new business, there were a few kinks to work out in the first week or so, but the food has always been terrific and they really have their groove going now. This is what the New North End needed! Affordable, delicious food in a casual atmosphere. It is technically a sports bar and grill, but I don't feel overwhelmed by televisions screaming out games. Everyone who's there to watch the game gets what they want, and those who just came to have a great Reuben or a burger and chat with friends can do so easily.

It's too bad that John (who commented earlier) had a poor experience with the owner. We have found him to be very nice and accommodating. Hooray for Norm's Grill!!

A co-worker of mine who is vegetarian (like myself) went and there was not one single vegetarian entree at Norm's, which was a disappointment to him as he was excited to have a new place to drink beer and watch the game in his neighborhood. Adding a simple veggie burger or pasta dish would be simple and very nice.

Hi Dani,
Your co-worker missed the Danica Patrick, a veggie and soy burger topped with sauteed mushrooms. I agree, though, Burlington restaurants should have more than one veggie option.

John knows exactly what he's talkin' about. Good food, great staff, servers, bar tenders etc. Real nice set up and great location. The owner is a pompus, arrogant, "shit don't stink", shovanistic prick...TOO BAD FOR US, and the staff.

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