One of my favorite all time “go-to” restaurants is The Grape. Located on lower Greenville in Dallas, this restaurant was opened in 1972 and my husband and I have been patrons since the early 1980s. We have seen several chefs come and go – but the service and food has remained impeccable throughout these past thirty years.
The Grape is a little difficult for me to describe. It is a great place to take the family for a weekend brunch. It can be the perfect spot for a romantic dinner and a couple’s night out. It also fits the bill when dining with friends before a play or event in downtown Dallas. The cozy interior dining area is very charming and can take on a romantic vibe without feeling stodgy. The covered patio is perfect for brunch or a more casual happy hour visit.
The menu changes monthly, though some of the long-time featured items remain. Food selections range from European bistro, to New American innovative, to down-home style. A couple of their signature specialties are the Mushroom Soup (the best ever!) and the Brunch Burger (voted one of the best in Dallas). The Cheese & Charcuterie boards are always unique and tasty. Their featured fish dishes have been some of the best I have ever had. The various steaks, Shrimp & Grits, Portabella Wellington, and Coal Miner’s Pasta are just a few of the “stand-out” dishes that I can remember. For those with smaller appetites, you may order small (or half) portions of many salads and entrees on the dinner menu. The wine selections and cocktail lists are always impressive.
On our last visit to The Grape with friends, I had a Pear Prosecco cocktail – which was a great start to a wonderful meal. I then had a small cup of Mushroom soup, because it is just too hard to resist! Next came the Courtney Salad which is another one of my favorites – with fresh butter lettuce, sunflower seeds, carrots, cherry tomatoes and blue cheese vinaigrette dressing (served with a warm bread basket and fresh butter). My entree choice was the Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Lemon Parmesan Risotto and Broccoli Rabe. I then chose the Banana Fosters Bread Pudding for dessert. Other members in my party had the Bacon Cheeseburgers, the Mustard-Crusted Salmon entree, and a Brandied Cherry & Dark Chocolate Terrine for dessert. Everything was flavorful and delicious! The wonderful ambiance, the great service, and the exceptional food and drink made for another perfect evening meal at The Grape.
small Courtney salad
Braised short ribs
Banana Fosters bread pudding
The Grape’s Saturday and Sunday brunches are highly rated and offer more wonderful food options. I hope you get the opportunity to dine here in the near future for either brunch or dinner. Both menus are hard to beat. A final selling point – there is complimentary valet parking at the front door!
cherry & chocolate terrine
All of this reminiscing about 30+ years of great meals at The Grape now has me ready for an encore. I hope to see you there!
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I am lucky enough to have a very diverse group of “foodie” friends who love trying new foods and eating at new places. One of my friends recently introduced us to a Taiwanese chain of coffee shops and self-serve bakeries that she was familiar with in California. A new location of 85°C Bakery Cafe just opened three months ago in Richardson and it was our choice for a ladies’ lunch – and what a GREAT choice it was!
This location in Richardson is part of a new strip mall dedicated to Asian stores and eateries. The huge statues of warriors, poets and philosophers that line the entrance are pretty good indicators that you are in the right place! If you can locate parking near the statue of Confucius, you will be close to the bakery.
As we stepped through the doors of 85°C Bakery Cafe, I noticed this place was approximately twice the size of a Starbucks, but with the same relaxed coffee house vibe. The left side of the bakery was dominated by numerous self-serve cases of baked goods. The right rear area housed the counters where you order drinks and check-out. Various sizes of tables and chairs were scattered throughout. The entire place was casual, bright, modern, and extremely clean. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly.
This location serves tasty breads, cakes, pastries, teas, slushes, smoothies, and coffees. The “bakery & cafe” combination is certainly not a new idea, but at 85°C Bakery Cafe, this seems like a very new and fresh concept – and they do it quite well! I really loved the self-serve aspect. (The name is a nod to the ideal temperature of brewed coffee.)
After I walked through the door, everything was very visual. I grabbed a tray, a sheet of waxed paper and a pair of tongs and let my eyes dictate my choices. Each item was well-marked with signage indicating name, price, and what ingredients were used. Nothing was over $3 (most were $1 to $2 each) and the portions were not small! There were savory breads & rolls and sweet pastries. I actually picked out three savory rolls – a cheese dog, a potato & cheese croissant, and a ham & cheese roll and I could not finish all three. Other savory choices included: Hawaiian chicken rolls, Teriyaki chicken rolls, egg tarts, cheese tarts, salty butter rolls, red bean bread, squid ink rolls, taro rolls, and calamari sticks (for those more adventurous that I am!). Sweet pastries included: cinnamon rolls, fruit turnovers, chocolate croissants, cookies, brioche bread, coconut twists, mango tarts, sweet snow bread, cream puffs, fruit panna cotta, mocha rolls, etc. There were also prepackaged displays of cookies, macaroons, sliced egg bread and moon breads. As we were making our selections and placing them on our trays, staff members were periodically restocking items shouting “Fresh bread! Fresh bread!” as they brought out warm trays or more baked goods. Decisions, decisions……
Located near the checkout counter were refrigerated cases (not self-serve) that contained full-sized cakes, individual custards & tarts, mousse, and all types of single cake slices. I saw a range of flavors including: black forest, cheese cake, red velvet, creme brulee, chocolate, taro, lemon, almond, mango, vanilla, etc. They were all decorated beautifully and were well-packaged for eating in-house or taking out. (check out all the photos for more details)
We made our choices, paid, then sat and ate our savory selections. They were all light, flaky and delicious! We then wrapped up what we couldn’t finish (in clear cellophane bags that are provided) and took the leftovers home. Dessert came next! Once more, we grabbed a clean tray and pair of tongs to choose our “sweet” selections – some to eat while there, others to take home. Needless to say, every sweet pastry was fresh and tasty. This may be a Taiwanese bakery, but you will swear you at eating dessert in a very fancy French patisserie. (Note: the staff does a great job of wrapping bakery items for carry out and placing in small individual boxes, bags, or cardboard boxes.)
I would highly suggest checking this place out if you are in the mood for something different! We had a great experience and truly enjoyed all the food here – nice quantities, top quality, and good value. What’s not to like?!
Note: This is a chain restaurant and other nearby locations are in Carrollton and Plano. 85°C Bakery Cafe was started in Irvine, California in 2003.
After dining here, be sure to walk a few doors down and check out the Good Fortune Market, a Chinese supermarket. There are produce items, seafood, and boxed goods that are well worth viewing. I saw things that I have never seen before!
I look forward to August every year because that means Dallas Restaurant Week is here! For a certain week(s) during August, many prime Dallas restaurants will offer a price-fix menu and give proceeds to the North Texas Food Bank. It is a great way to try new places and sample their menus (at a considerably lower cost) and it helps benefit a very worthy cause .
One of my restaurant choices this year was Abacus. I have heard about this high-end restaurant for years but never had the opportunity to dine there. Luckily I got reservations on a weekend evening and anxiously looked forward to our visit.
From the moment we stepped into the foyer, I was impressed. Two friendly hostesses greeted us and we were seated at a romantic table for two with a white tablecloth and napkin, candle, fresh flowers and a beautiful place setting. The noise level was energetic, but not too loud, as most of the sounds were coming from the open kitchen and bar area. Our waiter was very professional, friendly, and provided just the right amount of attention. I was very impressed with his knowledge of the menu and the wine list.
The restaurant’s ambiance is sophisticated and romantic. The upscale decor, music, lighting, and art all spell out “fine dining.” There were many couples dining out this particular evening as well as large groups and a few families. It was perfect for a date night but not too stuffy for a business dinner or a nice dinner with friends or family.
We began with a couple of the Abacus signature cocktails. The Lucy in the Sky was a fruity, champagne drink and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Gin Basil Gimlet was very tasty and refreshingly good. We were brought a nice bread basket with 3 choices of freshly baked breads and seasoned butter. All were delicious, especially the raisin & nut bread!
Crispy Coconut Shrimp
Texas Melon Plate
Our menu for Dallas Restaurant Week offered a choice of a small plate or appetizer, an entree and then a shared dessert. We opted for the Crispy Coconut Rock Shrimp and Texas Melon plate for our starters and both were great choices. The rock shrimp had a crispy tempura batter and was served with sliced jalapenos, toasted cashews and a mango and red curry sauce. The Texas Melon appetizer was a tasty as it was colorful. Chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon were arranged in a circle around shaved hearts of palm. It was topped with queso fresco, red onions and a cilantro and lime vinaigrette dressing. This was my favorite dish and the combination of colors, textures and tastes was sheer perfection. Delicious!
Next, our server brought over a complimentary Watermelon Mojito Mint Shooter to clean our palates between courses. It was served in a shot glass and tasted like watermelon juice with minty tapioca balls. Loved it!
Watermelon Mint Shooter
We both ordered the Blackened Sockeye Salmon for our entree and it was cooked to perfection. The portion was quite large (2 fillets per plate) and the salmon was well-seasoned, but not overly seasoned, as I prefer for blackened dishes. Each entree was beautifully plated with the fish being served over blue corn grits and a red pepper butter sauce. Once again, the dish was visually appealing as well as being satisfying to our taste buds. Our server had suggested a perfect Merlot wine-pairing for this dish and it was spot-on.
Blackened Sockeye Salmon
Citrus Glazed Salmon
Dessert consisted of a shared plate with small servings of a chocolate and caramel torte, a scoop of chocolate chip mint ice cream and a fruit tartlett. Each one was enjoyable and ended up being a perfect end to a perfect meal.
We had a most pleasant dining experience this particular evening. I am always impressed when you get high quality food, top shelf spirits, innovative dishes, unique flair, and stellar customer service all at one time and in one place. Dining here is certainly not cheap but when all expectations are met, the cost seems justified.
If you are interested in dining at Abacus, check out their diverse menu on-line. They have a wide variety of menu choices including fresh sushi, lobster shooters, buffalo tenderloin, and black truffle risotto. Monday through Thursday evenings they offer a 5 or 8 course Chef’s Tasting Menu with or without wine pairings. I hope you get to check it out!
Abacus is located in the Knox-Henderson area on McKinney Avenue. Complimentary valet parking is conveniently located out in front of the the restaurant.
Mercat Bistro is located in Uptown Dallas but feels like you are dining at a little sidewalk cafe in Paris, France. It is tucked into a little building off Harwood and is located on the corner next to St. Anne’s Cafe. This small eatery serves contemporary French and American cuisine and is now one of my favorite brunch places. It is an intimate venue that is perfect for couples, friends or family. The noise level is energetic and the service has been very attentive when I have dined here.
The main dining room is quite small with very cozy marble-topped tables. The artsy, hand-lettered menu is located over the bar. The decor is European modern with touches of antiques and recycled items throughout…I feel safe calling it “French Charm.” There is an outside covered patio that truly looks as if it is steps away from the Metro in Paris. The metal scrollwork and open air dining is very indicative of an authentic French cafe. There is a beautiful view of Uptown from the patio as you overlook a spacious lawn, shady trees, fountains, strings of lights, etc.
delicious Peche Mignons
The cocktails at Mercat Bistro are magnifique! You can order delicious Mimosas by the carafe. On my first visit, I enjoyed the Santa Rosa – a very refreshing cocktail made with St. Germaine and champagne. The “star” for me was the Peche Mignon (pictured above). Champagne was poured over a frozen fruit ball made of muddled berries, orange juice, pineapple, peaches, and Creme de Violette Liqueur. It was light and delicious and as the fruit melted – it sweetened the dry champagne. Be sure to ask for a spoon to eat the remaining ice ball when your glass is empty….it was yummy!
Green Chile Crepe
The menu had a nice selection of pastries, salads, sandwiches, wraps, egg dishes, crepes, quiches and desserts. Their Ricotta & Honeycomb dish was my favorite appetizer. It consisted of creamy ricotta cheese, a fresh honey-filled honeycomb and crostinis. My only complaint was that I wanted more! The Green Chile Crepe was also impressive. It was a thin crepe filled with scrambled eggs, green chiles, cheddar cheese and herbs with a creamy mornay sauce and was served with roasted fingerling potatoes on the side. The Strawberry & Mascarpone Crepe was so light and delicate that it literally melted in my mouth. One word -DELICIOUS!
Strawberry Mascarpone Crepe
For those of you looking for a cool new brunch place to try and would like to experience a little piece of Paris, put Mercat Bistro on your list. Portions were on the smaller side but the quality was top notch…I guess this just gives you an excuse to order more!
Valet parking was available in front of the restaurant and across the street. I am looking forward to returning and trying out lunch and dinner. They have a wonderful dinner menu and also feature live music a couple of nights. I hope to see you there. Au revoir!