PEORIA — My Dad once told me the best way to choose a restaurant in an unfamiliar town is to look for one with lots of cars parked outside — the locals know what's good. The Grille 2 in Chillicothe fit the bill, even though we visited at lunch on a weekday.

Located just north of Chillicothe’s historic downtown, The Grill 2 opened late last summer in the building once occupied by Cedar House restaurant. Grill 2 is run by the same people who own the Germantown Grille in Germantown Hills.

The Grill 2 offers a nice casual atmosphere. One room is furnished with wrought-iron patio tables and walls that can be opened up on nice days, while the other room is a bit more formal with wooden tables and chairs. Both rooms contain TVs so diners can watch the game while enjoying their meal.

We chose the more formal section and were seated without waiting. The server was prompt and cheerful, quickly bringing a Bud Light ($3) for my companion and a glass of Canyon Road merlot ($4) for me.

We started with an appetizer of potato skins ($6.49), which arrived piping hot in a reasonable amount of time. Thin slices of potato were dressed with cheese and bacon. Green onions and peppers could be added for an extra 25 cents, a detail I didn’t notice when I ordered. The skins came with a side of sour cream. It was a hearty, though unremarkable, start to the meal.

The menu featured a nice mix of wraps and sandwiches (including a seven different types of horseshoes), salads, hamburgers, pizzas and other entrees, including catfish and steak. They also have some nice evening specials — on a previous Friday evening visit I ordered the 10-ounce ribeye steak special with two sides for $12.99. The steak was just as I ordered it, medium-rare.

On my more recent weekday visit I chose the cranberry walnut salad with chicken ($7.99), and my companion ordered the Chicago-style Italian beef ($7.74). When the salad arrived, I was pleased with the size — it was huge — and the generous allotment of toppings. Though the chicken was a bit dry, the sweet raspberry vinaigrette dressing and the zingy blue cheese crumbles made up for it. The Italian beef sandwich my companion ordered disappeared quickly. He said the meat was tasty and moist. It came with a side of au jus and a hot pepper.

There were only two choices for desert — strawberry shortcake in a jar or cookie a-la-mode. Since I eat gluten-free, neither worked for me, but my companion chose the cookie ($3.99). What arrived was a generously-sized cake-like chocolate chip cookie topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce. Even though the portion size was large, my companion made short work of it.

The Grille 2 is definitely worth the short drive from Peoria. The meal was hearty and well-prepared, and the atmosphere is pleasant.