There are certain peaks in life that must be surmounted, simply because when Mount Everest shows up in your backyard, you must climb it sooner or later if for no other reason than it's there. The Grape has been the standard-bearer of Dallas wine bars for lo these many years, and was perhaps best known as the training ground for famed sommelier and wine writer Andrea Immer. But since the publication several months back of Texas Monthly's Best Burger in Texas list, the Grape has spruced up its reputation.
Now it's better known as the home of That Cheeseburger, aka the Classic Cheeseburger, voted NO. 1 by Texas Monthly's staff writers and available only for brunch and dinner Sundays and during dinner on Mondays. My wife and I had already tried No. 3, the issue's cover burger, at the Alamo Springs Café 10 miles southeast of Fredericksburg, and had agreed it was the best burger we had ever eaten. Since then, we wondered how any burger could taste better, and finally decided that it was time to make a pilgrimage to Lower Greenville to see what all the fuss was about.
The Grape sits directly across the street from the site of last month's tragic fire that claimed three venerable establishments. Although a sad eyesore at present, hopefully new hip places will spring from the ashes. The Grape's crowded patio is quite charming, complete with brick pansy boxes and a plastic sheet that sheltered us from the brisk wind. We had reservations, which are strongly advised on Sundays and Mondays, so we were led right to our table.
Don't forget that The Grape earned its wings with wine, so you might peruse the wine list before ordering drinks. My wife only needed to hear me say, "Honey, they have $4 Prosecco Mimosas" before making her selection. Slightly nutty and bone-dry, this mimosa is easily worth twice the money, and at that price, you can always order more. I chose a glass of the Arceno Primo Voce Super Tuscan, an intoxicating blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Sangiovese replete with black cherry, leather, and chocolate. By the way, don't be afraid to ask for advice. They really know their grapes.
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If this brunch is any indication, they know their food too. Chef/Owner Brian Luscher should be mentioned with the likes of his better known colleagues Pyles, Fearing, and Gottlich. Shredded ox-tail and banana pepper hash was topped with a rich red wine demi-glace, very much like beef bourguignon with poached eggs added. Chef Luscher is a master of pairing in the kitchen as well, for the wine chosen for the demi-glace really brought out the flavor of the beef, and the dish was better with every bite. The hash was served with wheat toast and (what else?) grape jam and the banana peppers stood in so nicely for potatoes that none were needed.
And what about That Cheeseburger? It's a grilled 10-ounce patty with peppered bacon, white cheddar, and dijonaise on a toasted pain au lait bun, and was so juicy that the top bun slipped off three times. Not surprisingly, my wife finally decided to eat it with knife and fork. After sampling it, we both decided that it had well earned its Number 1 ranking. Why? In a word: Beefy.
Chef coaxes the true campfire flavor out of the patty so that it becomes a true beef fest, and like the hash, truly improves with every bite. No condiments were needed, and no ketchup needed on the first-rate frites either. They are properly blanched to bring out the true crispy potato flavor. After my wife and I finished, our knowledgeable waitress offered to bring us dessert menus, but we declined. Instead we finished with another glass of wine and the few remaining bits of burger. On this day, we felt that the cheeseburger was the only dessert needed, and that we had successfully climbed the Mount Everest of Burgers.
THE GRAPE RESTAURANT
2808 Greenville Ave.