Middletown’s downtown is experiencing a renaissance. A crop of new-school businesses line its Central Avenue, including common denominators of small-town revival (wood-fired pizza, gourmet coffee, et al.), as well as stops like a rock and roll store and the Pendleton Art Center. Anchoring it all is Gracie’s, serving what its owners call “big-city comfort food” from inside Torchlight Pass, a 38,000-square-foot building purchased and renovated by Ami Vitori, who co-owns the restaurant with dynastic restaurateur Max Comisar. Vitori opened the place, named after her Middletown grocer grandma—pictured on an entrance mural—last year following a successful executive career. The interior is upscale comfy, with modern urban finishes and handmade touches.
The small, fixed menu brings the big city, with offerings ranging from burgers to seared scallops, while the daily specials like meatloaf or fried chicken add comfort. Dinner began with drinks, complimentary rye bread and house-made ham salad, and an appetizer of charred Brussels sprouts topped with bacon and pine nuts. I had the seared gnocchi, prepared with mushrooms, goat cheese, scallions, balsamic, and a creamy sauce. My wife chose the Saturday steak special, cooked to a perfect medium and served sliced with sweet corn relish, red skin potatoes, and peppers. The plating was meticulous but not pompous, and the flavors well executed. Middletown might be a bit of a drive, but the town’s unique offerings—especially Gracie’s—make it a worthwhile trip.
Gracie’s, 1131 Central Ave. #102, Middletown, (513) 915-7476, graciesmiddletown.com