Overlooking the grass of the Aiken Golf Club, the Highland Park Grill is at an historic spot that once signified Aiken’s status as the “Queen of Winter Resorts.” Here stood the grand Highland Park Hotel — actually three generations of the hotel, which had a habit of burning down. The restaurant is located in what was the laundry room. It maintains a clubby ambience but welcomes the public. Come early for dinner and it’s likely the dining room and the outdoor deck will be rocking with the high spirits of players having post-game and/or pre-dinner libations. While conversations can get rowdy and loud, non-golfers seated at tables and in cozy varnished-wood booths will not feel like second-class customers. An attentive staff makes sure all goes well.
The menu is short, offering a few sandwiches and salads and two or three daily special meals at dinner. Any time, you can have an Ace Burger, which is a succulent orb of ground chuck so tall that getting it along with its bun and garnishes into one’s mouth is a challenge. Best dispatched with knife and fork, this is an excellent burger, accompanied by wicked-crisp battered French fries.
Steak is another winner — never frozen and hand-cut every day. A filet mignon glazed with Béarnaise sauce, accompanied by mashed potatoes and broccoli, is a big and satisfying meal. I’ve also sampled chicken pesto on pasta and lobster ravioli, both of which are easy to eat, if not dazzling.
To start a meal, you can order the likes of warm baked pimento cheese dip or warm spinach artichoke dip accompanied by a pile of pita chips. They are the sort of happy edible that’s fine as a companion to cocktails; but if you are coming more to eat than drink, you might consider foregoing hors d’oeuvre and saving appetite for the kitchen’s strong suit, which is beef.
The Highland Park Grille regularly stages Thursday theme-night dinners: Italian, Cajun, Mexican, etc.
Note that hours vary with the season. If planning to eat here, call ahead to be sure it’s open.