Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why The Grape is Still One of My Fave Restaurants in Dallas

The Grape. We all know it. We've all been there. And we all like it. I was reminded on Saturday night just how much I love this restaurant. Often given the label of being a "neighborhood gem," I think this is inaccurate. It's really more of a Dallas institution. Even if it's not on someone's regular restaurant rotation, simply suggesting going to The Grape immediately results in a, "Oh yes, I love that place. Let's go there." That was pretty much what happened this last weekend when the parental units were in town.

Let me start out by saying that the fabulous customer service from The Grape stars before you even show up. Courtney gave me a call to confirm our reservation on Saturday afternoon, which isn't terribly uncommon. But when I asked if it was possible for our party of six to be seated on the patio that evening, she happily told me she had already made sure of it. Yes, it's likely that I've made reservations before and requested to be on the patio, so it's in my profile on their computer, but this attention to detail is really where The Grape excels.

So the six of us show up on Saturday night and are seated at a very nice table on the patio. (Note: having six people show up on time is a little bit like herding cats.) Our server was friendly, starting us off with cocktails and giving us plenty of time to review the menu. The Sig-O opted for am East Side Sour, which was pretty darn good if you're looking for a good whiskey cocktail. Sig-O seems to be gravitating toward those old fashioned cocktails that fancy mixologists all over town are making. Me, I'm still a solid wine and vodka kind of girl. Not together, that would be gross. My younger sibling opted for the Grape's Boursin Martini, which isn't much more exciting than a martini, except that it included house-made boursin stuffed olives. It's a shame there were only two olives, because I think the rest of us would have enjoyed them, but she wasn't feeling like sharing. But she did report they were very, very good. And really, boursin stuffed olives? I'm not sure how that could ever not be good. The parental units and I stuck to wine that evening. The Grape always has an interesting wine list. Courtney has done her homework to put together an approachable list with interesting options that will have you stepping out of your typical comfort zone, yet still leave you enjoying each glass.

Ever onward we went into the meal, starting out with the frittered baby artichokes. Not to be missed, and surrounded by baby arugala and prosciutto, we needed two orders of them to make sure everyone got to enjoy. And of course no trip to The Grape would be complete without a fantastic cheese and charcuterie plate. We asked the waiter to let the chef decide what to put on the plate and we weren't disappointed when we received the creamy housemade boursin, marinate chevre, 4-year cheddar, rabbit mortadella, and spicy sopressata, complete with olives, grapes, crackers and the usual accouterments you'd expect for a well done cheese plate. The house boursin is always good at The Grape. The Sig-O was a fan of the sopressata and I was a fan of the rabbit mortadella. Seriously, how often do you find rabbit on a cheese plate? Dad, you missed out on that one.

After working our way through the appetizers and our first of several bottles of wine, our entrees arrived. Wanting to make sure we saved enough room for dessert, there were a few "share-sies" around the table. The parentals split the Texas Shrimp and Lemon Chili Sausage on polenta, and when I reached across the table to steal a bite, I found quite the version of shrimp and grits. Call it what you may, but when you put shrimp on top of polenta, it still becomes shrimp and grits. Not that I'm complaining, since it's certainly a favorite dish and this one was prepared quite well, even with the surprise of the sausage. The Bro-In-Law, BIL, had the Bistro Steak Frites and was not into sharing. I managed to snag a couple frites and he told me the steak was really good, but still didn't want to share. Note to Fam: we should consider reevaluating BIL status. The Sig-O chose what I originally thought would be a rather uninspired choice with the Coal Miner's Pasta. I was wrong, really wrong. Complete with cream, spinach, bacon and an egg on top, this spaghetti might have been the winning entree for the night. I kept reaching over for "just one more bite" of the creamy, cheesy, bacony goodness. If you know a coal miner, and this is how they cook, you should go to dinner there. And invite me. The sister, belonging to the BIL with now questionable status, and I split the Prime Pork Chop. Billed as the Grilled & Mopped Prime Pork Chop, it came with hominy gratin, slaw and green beans. The chop was tender and juicy. The kitchen was even kind enough to split it in the kitchen and still bring it out with a lovely presentation. Was it a good pork chop? Yes. Did I still end up fork sparring with the Sig-O for more coal miner's pasta. Yes.

But wait, dinner with the Fam isn't over until we've had dessert, so Mom and I perused the list and ordered the Valrhona Chocolate Terrine, Bananas Foster Bread Pudding and the Caramel Popcorn Sundae. Oh, and I think the table may have sampled all the post-dinner drinks The Grape offers. We were already down two bottles of wine by that time, so just take my word for it that the dessert cocktails were also very good. The terrine was a dense dark chocolate mousse with french brandied cherries. Smooth and rich, it was as expected and a definite must for any chocolate lover. The bread pudding was the perfect density and texture, with no need to be drowned in a superfluous sauce. It was popular, but let's be honest, everything played second fiddle to the Caramel Popcorn Sundae. I know, you don't know if that actually sounds good, trust me, it is better than good. It's fan-freaking-tastic. Think buttered popcorn ice cream, sea salt caramel and caramel popcorn tuille. There wasn't a single bite left of that one. People who classify themselves with the "I'm not a dessert person" label even loved this dessert. The flavors and textures married so well, I'd recommend ordering this and taking notes from it rather than some expensive blah, blah, blah pre-marriage counseling.

 If you're looking to make dinner plans, I'd certainly recommend visiting The Grape. With Courtney running the front of the house and Brian crafting amazing food in the back, you really can't go wrong. I know I'll be back soon, I've already told the Sig-O we're going back for a charcuterie plate and the caramel popcorn sundae.

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