To create a restaurant whose owners say is unlike any other in York County, the Karandrikases built Crimson American Grill from scratch.
The Spring Garden Township eatery stands in place of Chapps at the Hill, which closed in July 2009 and was demolished.
"I think it's probably one of the only independent restaurants in the area built from the ground up," Manager Nick Karandrikas said.
Karandrikas said he, his dad, George, and sister, Tina, started talking about new plans for the establishment in 2006. After working with consultants and contractors, they opened the red-brick building's doors in April.
Customers recently filled booths and tables during lunch on a Thursday. A cheerful server promptly greeted my guest and me. We asked for more time - more than once - to browse the eclectic menu.
I ordered the chicken salad, served on a bed of iceberg and romaine lettuce, and spring mix. My fellow Cheap Eater chose the cod gyro lunch special, which came with a cup of tomato mushroom soup for $7.95.
Despite the lunch-time rush, we didn't wait long for our food.
Carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, grapes, candied walnuts, red onions and egg topped my chicken salad. The veggies were fresh, and I enjoyed the combination of ingredients with the chicken.
My guest savored his soup, which had a bisque-like texture. Though he's a fan of meat in his gyros, he said the fish-and-pita pairing offered an unconventional twist.
As we finished our meals, I couldn't help but feel relaxed in the atmosphere.
Karandrikas said that was part of his family's plan when they designed the restaurant. Warm shades of red, brown and mahogany color the eatery. Pictures enhanced to look like oil paintings hang on the walls. Most depict restaurants from different eras, and each has a touch of crimson.
Karandrikas said they wanted Crimson to be more casual and affordable than Chapps to broaden its clientele. The restaurant has a hip, but comfortable feel to it. He said he hopes to attract more families and young professionals.
The restaurant reminded me of one found in Philadelphia or Baltimore. Karandrikas said people tell him that all the time and that many people also think it's a chain.
"I guess they're surprised that an independent restaurant would go all out and really try to build something original," he said.
Karandrikas said his family focuses on good food, atmosphere, portions and service with reasonable prices. Crimson's look and new building helps them do that.
Judging by the crowd at lunch, people seem to notice.
"We really wanted to try to stand out in York and the greater area," he said. "If not, you're just like everybody else."
Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants with meals for less than $10. Suggestions are welcome. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 771-2101, email@example.com or on Twitter @YDRCheapEats.
If you goLOCATION: Crimson American Grill, 1839 S. Queen St. in Spring Garden Township
LEIGH'S PICK: Chicken salad ($9.99)
HOURS: Dining room, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; bar, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
PRICE RANGE: $3.25 to $19.95
SMOKING: On patio only
ACCEPTS: Cash, credit and Chapps at the Hill gift cards through December 2010
KID'S MENU: Yes
DETAILS: Call 793-3605 or visit crimsonamericangrill.com