3938 Spring Grove Avenue (across from BP)
Open: Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
A lot of restaurants spend tons of money striving for a hip, retro look. Not so The Grove, which is the real deal. This new Northside establishment has opened in a former greasy spoon called Ray's, and stepping in is like stepping back through time - circa 1972. The speckled linoleum floor and paneled wood walls were undoubtedly there way back when, and while the cushioning for the booths and chairs might have possibly been updated at least once in the past forty years, they certainly blend in well.
The decor may be a little tired, but the menu isn't. Not only are there more vegetarian sandwiches listed than meat-based, they also offer for a small upcharge Ezekiel Bread and vegan cheese. Nice!
It isn’t often that vegetarians and vegans are spoiled for choice, so it took me awhile to decide on what to get. Should I try the curry tofu sandwich or the homemade black bean burger? Hang on – there’s a corn cake burger too? Oh dear, where to start?
“Well,” intoned my dining partner, “let’s start with the vegetarian chili and go from there.” It turned out to be a good choice. Made from scratch and brimming with chunky tomatoes, it was tangy, hearty and filling.
Like most diners, The Grove offers daily specials. The twist is that one of them is always vegetarian. Specials include casseroles, quiches, sides and desserts. Call ahead or check their Facebook page to find out what’s on offer.
While my friend was swayed by the (non-veg) Paula Dean Casserole on the specials board, I chose the homemade black bean burger from the regular menu to find out how it rates against other area veggie burgers. Verdict? Definitely in the top three. It was thick and messy – I would advise against trying to eat it with your hands – and seriously good. The marriage of patty and spicy chipotle mayo was a match made in heaven, rendering the cold slice of cheddar cheese superfluous.
The service is friendly and the choice for vegetarians is superb. The Grove is a welcome addition to the Northside community and I’m really looking forward to working my way through their entire meat-free menu.