I have to say, my last several outings to Granite City have left me seriously unimpressed. When the place was first open, it was sparkly, new, had things on the menu that were at least twists on the same-old-same-old fare of other locations, and they brewed their own beer. On premises. I really liked some of the things on the menu, such as the roast beef sandwich, the London broil sandwich, the chicken burrito, and the soups.
Despite a couple remodels, time has not exactly been kind to GC. If you ask me, the place is getting a tad threadbare, and worse yet, the food is changing.
I think it all started going wrong when they stopped brewing on premises. Granted in today's beer snob world, GC doesn't have the bestest beers, but I always appreciated the effort and almost always have one of their beers when I visit. I believe I heard or was told at one point that the reason for off-premises brewing was the need to somehow standardize product across the franchise chain. God forbid someone get a Duke in St. Cloud that tastes different than the same offering in Omaha.
Unfortunately, some of the best things GC has ever had on the menu are gone, or worse yet, altered for the worse. Two examples jump to mind.
First example. Several years ago, GC introduced a new burger, the Napa Valley Burger. I don't know what screamed "wine country" about it, but it was good. As a matter of fact, it shared many of the finest qualities of the legendary lamb burger that McNally's had years ago. (Another great item that is now as dead as the dinosaurs.) The Napa Valley Burger was topped with grilled prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, avocado spread, and greens cooked with some balsamic reduction. It was served on focaccia. Really, a nice offering and a tasty departure from burger boredom. I used to have it almost every time I visited GC.
Second example. Granite City changed it's barbecue sauce formula. This may seem relatively insignificant in the grander scheme of things, but as I have tried to point out ad nauseam, little details can make big differences in food. The barbecue sauce is used on a couple of items, such as a burger known as the Bedda Chedda Burger and an open-faced meatloaf sandwich. The former iteration of the sauce was pretty much straight up old school barbecue sauce- sweet and tangy. The new and "improved" sauce boasts a "coffee bean" component. It's too sweet. I had it on an open faced meatloaf sandwich, that had I known included the sauce, I would have asked that it be left off. I think the folks at GC have their doubts about the new barbecue sauce, too. One of their recent special chef's features menus included the Bedda Chedda Burger with the OLD sauce. (Also a pretty good burger, by the way. Cheddar cheese, bacon, barbecue sauce and an onion ring.)
My Midwestern passive aggression can get me around the other things I don't care for at Granite City, such as the relentless efforts of the staff to up-sell everything. I.E. "Would you like to substitute waffle fries?" If so, "Would you like to add our Granite City Dip for those waffle fries?" I can also get past the regular as clockwork visit from the manager on duty and first name introductions from the bartenders. I know I can get snootier brew elsewhere, but a big mug of Benny and Duke mixed together is often very nice. But, irrespective, good food needs to be the foundation of any restaurant experience. Stellar service doesn't fix slipping food.