Short Orders: The Grape
2808 Greenville Ave.
If not for The Grape, Dallas would have a small empty space in its culinary soul.
Yeah, we'd have some cool wine bars with great kitchens--Dali comes to mind. We would even have a compliment of venues with old world charm, however contrived. But nothing else could match the Greenville Avenue destination for its...how shall we put this?...well, the place just feels right.
Oh, you will bump into the person behind you or battle for reservations on weekend nights. Parking is a chore, even if you choose to valet. But there's the warmth, the chalkboard, the 'been here forever' effortless lack of refinement. No nods to cute or trendy (unless you count those grape-shaped light fixtures in the bar), no attention grabbing fusion menus. Just real comfort.
And reliable cooking.
OK--more than reliable. Brian Luscher is one of the better chefs in Dallas. But in a city sprinkled with good destination kitchens, he stands out for 'across the board' consistency.
So you can order a simple house made pate and it will please just as much as diver scallops. And the menu is built around country-style dishes: rabbit, roast chicken, mushroom soup and the like--the kind of fare found in neighborhood bistros across France, without the overt 'theme' feel.
Call it honest food, if you wish. But it's actually more intriguing than that. Luscher tweaks dishes on a regular bases, incorporating new flavors in subtle fashion. Grilled rainbow trout, for instance, picks up a unique, creamy background from a measure of Vlaskaas cheese. It's rich, smoky counterpunch comes from bits of his own cured bacon.
But you already knew this. So, we'll just say The Grape remains one of the city's 'must visit' restaurants. Unlike so many of the hotspots that come and go, however, it's also a 'must return to' destination.
Or to put it another way: if Wolfgang Puck's Five-Sixty shut down, so be it. If The Grape closed, we'd probably all shake our heads sadly.
And then head out to dinner. Our collective soul isn't that committed.