Marathon Grill


Marathon Grill
1339 Chestnut St.
Credit cards accepted
Delivery to offices
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Since construction began last summer, a number of people have been asking me when the Olive Garden would open on Chestnut Street. I’ve walked by the site, next door to the Capital Grille, many times and the entrance was still boarded up. I decided to have lunch at the Marathon Grill in the Weidner Building last week and much to my surprise, a banner proclaimed the Olive Garden would open on Feb. 3. I peeked inside and noticed a number of people being interviewed for staff positions.

I made note of its opening and crossed Chestnut Street for an early lunch at the Marathon Grill. Although I reviewed Marathon on the Square three years ago, I never reviewed the Marathon Grill. I’ve enjoyed lunch or an early supper at the casual restaurant on a number of occasions. The prices are reasonable, the menu diverse, the service always excellent and the food delicious. Portions are generous, and sandwiches are hefty and piled high with immaculately fresh ingredients.

The Marathon Grill is extremely well run at each of its five locations. Wait staff and counter staff take good care of their customers.

I always try to have an early lunch because the place is so popular, it fills up quickly. You’ll see robust construction workers enjoying bowls of hot turkey Florentine soup ($4.25), attorneys taking a courtroom break for burgers and salads, a mother, daughter and young granddaughter tucking into grilled cheese or two women of a certain age who like to share tuna on rye. I’ve tasted a number of dishes, so I will describe my favorites.

Chicken noodle soup ($3.50 and $4.25) is so fresh it tastes just like grandma’s. The rich homemade stock is brimming with curly egg noodles, chunks of breast of chicken, carrots, onions and celery. I knew it was homemade because the vegetables were not all the same size.

Although specific grilled and cold sandwiches are prepared with a certain bread — and there are myriad choices — I sometimes ask if I can substitute foccacia for seven-grain or sourdough for baguette. I am such a fan of Marathon Grill’s cole slaw that occasionally I ask if I can have it instead of red-bliss potato salad or tuna pasta salad. Staff are always accommodating with such requests.

Grilled sandwiches come with a choice of french fries or Caesar salad. The 8-ounce burgers ($8) are famous here. They are char-grilled to your liking and come with a choice of toppings. I’m a traditionalist and go for bacon and cheddar. The fries are always freshly made and arrive piping-hot. I make salmon croquettes at home and usually use canned salmon. The salmon burger ($7.95) is prepared with fresh Norwegian fish, which is chopped with seasonings and grilled. Sometimes a salmon burger is dry, but Marathon Grill’s is always moist inside.

Vegetarian sandwiches have become very popular within the past 10 years. And you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy one. A combination of grilled portabello mushrooms, not-at-all bitter eggplant, roasted peppers and sharp provolone on a baguette ($6.95) is a favorite. I enjoy the contrast in tastes and textures.

I rarely eat egg salad in a restaurant because, more often than not, too much mayonnaise is used in its preparation. Egg salad at the Marathon Grill is tossed with the right amount of mayo and fresh chopped tarragon, which gives it a tasty kick. I like it with sliced cucumbers, red onions, sprouts, red-leaf lettuce and tomato on seven-grain wheat bread with a red-bliss potato salad ($6.50).

The tuna at Marathon Grill is also just to my liking, whipped and creamy with a bit of mayo to hold it together. I prefer tuna salad on seven-grain bread with sprouts, lettuce, tomato and sharp provolone ($6.75). The side of cole slaw that comes with the sandwich is a most generous portion. Crispy green cabbage is shredded thickly with bits of red pepper and a fine julienne of carrot in a light mayonnaise dressing with a hint of lemon juice. If I’ve had soup at lunch, sometimes half my sandwich is packed in a plastic container and comes home with me.

There are five hand-carved turkey sandwiches ($6.95) on offer. I like the sandwich with roasted peppers, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato with a touch of honey mustard. My sister Sandy picks the classic turkey club sandwich as her favorite. At the Marathon Grill, it is made with Swiss cheese, crisp smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato piled on a baguette. Sandy said she didn’t miss the usual white toast.

If you order a salad, you’ll find all the dressings are homemade. Chef salad ($7.50) is made with Smithfield ham, such a delicious change from boring run-of-the-mill commercial boiled ham that so many restaurants serve. I like its slightly salty flavor. The salad also contains roasted turkey, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, tossed greens, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers. Homemade Thousand Island dressing goes well with this salad. The Suburban Station salad ($6.50) is Marathon Grill’s twist on Greek salad. It’s made with crisp hearts of romaine, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh briny flavored chunks of feta cheese and kalamata olives tossed in a light vinaigrette.

I haven’t tried any of the hot entr�es yet, but at my most recent lunch I sat by the open kitchen and watched busy chefs turning out several kinds of fajitas ($6.95 to $8.95) and grilled breast of chicken with Caesar salad and rice. I noticed chopped sirloin steak on the menu. I bet it’s as good as the ones I so enjoyed during childhood.

Three tips of the toque to Marathon Grill.