They say you have to give a wine three chances before you can really appreciate it--the first sip shocks your taste buds, the second loosens them up. By the third sip, your mouth has prepared itself to register all the wine's complexities.
It's sort of like making a friend--the more you know, the better you like him. Or her. Or it--Dallas has been savoring The Grape for a long time, and year by year we appreciate it more.
Lately, I've been going to The Grape for lunch. Those people who enjoy streetside, smog-perfumed, sunshine lunching might find The Grape too dark at midday--there are no windows. The only light comes from those funny grape cluster light fixtures, and it really is dark. For me, it's perfect lighting.
At night, it would be romantic, if I could use that; at lunch, it's restful and coddling, which I can use. The lunch menu is right, too--classy, civilized, interesting, and extremely reasonably priced.
The first wine bar in Dallas, The Grape is going on 20 years old. It made its name with its cellar, its cheese plates, its mushroom soup. It was the pre-eminent quiche dispenser when quiche was the most sophisticated dish you could eat. Mostly, it served French-y food to complement the wine.
It just goes to show how adventurous, how unprejudiced our palates have become. Food that goes with wine is any food. Bravely, The Grape still serves quiche. And the generous slice of wild mushroom pie I sampled recently was a fluted-edged beauty, rich with three cheeses, with plenty of brown fungi giving it some substance.
On the other hand, The Grape's chef, David Burdette, looks all over for good ideas and finds them in Italian cuisine (a calzone stuffed with kalamata olives, goat cheese, and baby artichokes gave the quiche some strong competition, but nostalgia won out). One lunch visit we ate the special pizza with rosemary crust and toppings of artichoke hearts and goat cheese, and a Cobb salad with smoked chicken. Even the Philly cheese steak sandwich was delicious. Home cooking is another source of good ideas--how about a barbecue meatloaf sandwich? And the Orient (chili-lime marinated pork loin with stir-fried vegetables and peanuts). And nothing over $9. (Didn't I say civilized?)
The Grape has always been famous for its mushroom soup. Of course I ordered it--to see how it held up--and found it as satisfying as ever. Smooth as cream, but not too rich, with the mushroom flavor strong as beef, it was a substantial but elegant brew. I'd like to take home a quart, just to have on hand for fortification.
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The bread was hot, the real unsalted butter was cold; they go on doing the little things right, and given their track record, The Grape can be counted on to keep going, and going, and going...
--Mary Brown Malouf
The Grape, 2808 Greenville Ave., 828-1981. Open for lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. For dinner Sunday-Thursday 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5:30 p.m.-midnight.
Mushroom soup, cup $2.50
Pan-fried crabcake $5.95
Fried green tomato-arugula mozzarella