The Grill is not just a pretty pitstop for golfers

Even while The Lodge at Torrey Pines was undergoing a remodel three years ago, the Grill was open for business, feeding hungry golfers before and after they completed their day at the links. They actually built the hotel around the restaurant, which overlooks the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.

The Lodge is a showplace of Old California Craftsman architecture, with antique brick, beautiful wood paneling, stained-glass windows, Tiffany-style lamps and handsome Mission furniture.

Fortunately, the management paid just as much attention to the cuisine served in both of its restaurants as it did to the detailed architectural and striking design features.

Although the Grill takes a different approach to its culinary offerings than its sister restaurant, A.R. Valentien, it is still a jewel in the crown of this magnificent hotel. Despite its name, the Grill’s menu takes cues from 1950s-style cuisine.

Chef de cuisine Todd Sanders worked his way up the ranks at this hotel after graduating from the Art Institute of Seattle’s Culinary Program and learning his trade in other venues. He describes his cuisine as retro comfort-style food.

Sanders is refining and redesigning 20th century classics. He even included his own version of a TV dinner on the dinner menu.

“We’re doing comfort food,” he explained, “but a step up.”

When you sample his creations, you’ll agree that Sanders’ cookery is more than a step up from the comfort food we look back on with nostalgia today. He has elevated many of our favorite foods to an art.

Consider the lowly hamburger. Many youngsters don’t even know how a good burger should taste, but the Grill has the old favorite down pat. It starts with top quality Niman Ranch beef, which is cooked to perfection.

You’ll get a half pound of beef on your bun, along with typical fixings, such as lettuce, tomato, onion slices, and pickles. The Grill burger is so popular, it is featured on both the lunch ($8.50) and dinner ($9.50) menu.

We matched it up with salad, but you can have fries if you prefer the classic combo.

Lunch is the perfect time to sample Chef Sanders’ cuisine. The views of the golf course are magnificent, even from the attractive interior. But when you dine out on the sprawling patio, the panoramic vistas are stunning.

The Bostom clam chowder ($5.50) is a signature soup - and with its smokey taste (from the bacon) and creamy texture, it is exceptional.

The sandwich list spells comfort from beginning to end. You can opt for a sloppy Joe ($8.50), a meat loaf sandwich with all the trimmings ($8.50), or a traditional Reuben sandwich ($8). The club sandwich is a real mouthful, but not because it’s made with three slices of bread. The chef makes the Grill’s club with just two pieces of bread and plenty of roasted chicken, bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato ($9.50).

Entree salads are popular as well, particularly the Cobb ($11). We tried the curried chicken packed into a papaya and surrounded by designer greens, and it was fabulous ($11).

There are a couple of main dish items on the lunch menu, including spaghetti and meatballs ($14). What makes this one unique is the use of fresh veal and beef in the meatballs. No wonder it shows up for dinner as well.

The chef gets even more innovative on the dinner menu, with chicken saltimbocca ($19), a popular selection. This chicken preparation is made with prosciutto and fontina cheese, then served with zucchini, potatoes and a whole grain mustard sauce.

Brook trout amandine with glazed new potatoes and green beans ($19), meatloaf with apple mashed potato, roasted carrots and rosemary gravy ($18), cornmeal crusted catfish with buttermilk hushpuppies, red chard and green onion aioli ($18.50), and that contemporary take on a TV dinner, herb roasted salmon with white asparagus, warm potato salad and a fruit crisp ($21.50) are among the dinner offerings on The Grill’s menu.

They didn’t make TV dinners like that when I was checking out the supermarket freezers.

The homemade desserts include creme caramel ($6), banana Foster chocolate torte ($6), fresh fruit crisp and vanilla ice cream ($6) and a delicate angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream ($6).

The Grill is at 11480 North Torrey Pines Road. Call (858) 777-6645.