Roland Pohlman, the Grill's youthful owner (and U-M MBA grad), sets the tone for his restaurant with his unflagging cheerfulness, lack of pretension, and high standards. Pohlman talks about the "triangle of food, service, and atmosphere" and nails all three parts. No less an authority than Zagat rates the West End Grill's food in the category of "extraordinary to perfection," with "very good to excellent" ratings in decor and service. Hundreds of diners from all over the world have raved about their West End experiences on numerous Internet review sites. Ann Arbor diners lucky enough to get a reservation gush over its consistent excellence.
Which--in a yin-yang sort of way--is also its Achilles' heel, because to be so highly regarded (not to mention expensive) also invites the inevitable "meh" when the restaurant fails to meet a diner's lofty standards. Some Internet critics, for example, refuse to believe an Ann Arbor restaurant can be as good as one in New York or Los Angeles. Others remark on the small space or complain about the lack of variation in the menu. But for its many fans, the Grill's consistency is an asset--allowing regulars to anticipate their familiar favorites and to know that they will be expertly prepared on every visit. This is due, in large part, to the thirteen-year tenure of chef Jorge Garduna, who has worked his way through every position at the restaurant to the top spot.