"Huh," says my friend Ben as we gaze around the Grapevine Cafe. Translation: "I do believe that the only people at this restaurant younger than ourselves are the wait staff."
"Yep," I say back. Still, at 34, I have reached an age where I take a certain level of comfort in feeling young by comparison, so I happily settle into the bar with my friends to wait for our table. It will take about 20 minutes; we're hitting the place just a couple weeks after a mostly positive review in the Sun, and they're still dealing with a new rush of business.
This has repercussions for us beyond having time to savor a well-made Manhattan while a table opens up; when we do sit down, we find out that the restaurant has been cleaned out of not only our first wine choice, but their spanikopita, the lamb-shank entrée, and (gasp!) crab cakes. "I'm really sorry," says our waitress sympathetically. "It's been crazy here."
And so our "Grapevine Platter" appetizer sampler has a cheese pastry instead of a spinach one. It is still nicely flaky, with a tangy cheese filling. Dolmades are beefy, well-seasoned morsels, as are the Greek meatballs. The only problem: We don't have nearly enough pita for our tzatziki dip. We try flagging down our waitress on her next pass through, but she's one step ahead of us. "More pita?" she asks rhetorically, barely slowing down. "It's coming."
Even a small "Grapevine Salad" ($5.50, $7 for a large) is sizeable, and features plenty of fresh spring greens—as well as grape tomatoes, cucumber, almond slivers, and goat cheese—in a tart vinaigrette. Pastitsio ($15) is a gigantic block of the baked macaroni casserole, full of ground beef and properly zippy tomato and creamy béchamel sauces. I just wish there had been even a token vegetable on the plate to make some gesture at a balanced meal. Everyone else got them. The big, tender leg of lamb ($17.50) came with lemony roasted potatoes and those soft Greek-style green beans; so did the gyro dinner ($12.50), in which slightly dry but well-seasoned gyro meat was prettily arranged under a generous dollop of tzatziki. And when my friend Tiffany bemoaned the loss of the sweet-potato fries that would have come with her first choice of entrée, the crab cakes, our waitress very graciously offered to substitute them for the rice pilaf that came with her crab imperial ($23.50).
Meanwhile, the room (a fairly comfortable but nondescript square) had emptied out—it's an early dinner crowd at the Grapevine. Service began to be more attentive, in that "would you like to get your check and leave now?" way.
Could we have baklava ($3.50) for dessert? We could not; it, too, was sold out, as were the brownies for the brownie sundae special—or, wait! Our waitress made a quick dash to the kitchen and returned triumphantly holding a dish aloft. "They just came out of the oven!" she said. We guess they weren't in such a hurry to see us out, after all.