An awful lot of good — and some not so good — restaurants have foundered during the recession, but still others have been floating along quite nicely. An example of the latter is Market Grille Cafe, which opened in Centennial Hills about five years ago as a counter-service spot tucked into a strip shopping center. After expanding to a West Lake Mead Boulevard location, the original moved to a full-service spot on North Durango Drive.
Full service may seem like a natural progression for a counter-service restaurant, but it doesn’t happen often. So I recently decided to check out the newest Market Grille Cafe and determine how it differed from the original.
Not so much, as it turns out. And, to use another cliche: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
That’s because the original Market Grille Cafe was an exemplary example of a counter-service spot, with food served on ceramic dishes, beverages in glasses. Fabric was draped from the ceiling to soften the space, and art filled the walls. Service was prompt, with food brought to the table after it was ordered.
The full-service spot has all of those things, plus a patio for dining when the weather is a little more pleasant than it has been lately. The biggest difference is that you order at the table.
There seems to have been some expansion in the menu as well, including some dishes that aren’t readily available in most of the Greek/Mediterranean restaurants in the valley, an example being pumpkin-mushroom soup ($3.50 for a cup, $5.50 for a bowl).
Yes, it’s definitely not soup weather, unless we’re talking vichyssoise, but this one was so intriguing I couldn’t let it go. It did indeed turn out to be autumnal in nature, something that would fit in perfectly with a Thanksgiving dinner. Although the soup was a little heavy for summer it was positively sublime, rich with the flavor of cinnamon, the mushrooms’ role mainly one of contributing to the hearty texture.
An appetizer of kefredes ($6.95; also available as an entree) was, like the soup, much more than the sum of its parts. The six moist, tender (and flattish) meatballs were liberally seasoned with mint, oregano and other herbs, served on a plate of herbed rice with a cup of tzatziki, the classic cucumber-yogurt-dill condiment. After sharing these as an appetizer, I can see how they would make an appealing entree.
Lamb souvlaki ($8.25 a la carte, or $11.25 with rice, Greek salad, pita triangles and tzatziki) was another winner, the well-seasoned, tender marinated meat roasted on a skewer with tomatoes and red onion. The rice was the same herb-flecked mix served with the kefredes, the salad pretty good. And the restaurant’s attention to detail was obvious in this one, which substituted the tzatziki for the hummus served with other entrees, the former having such a natural affinity for lamb.
And so I wondered what the heck they were thinking when they created the Greek Trio Platter ($10.75 a la carte, $12.95 as a dinner). This was a fairly customary offering, a square of moussaka, a square of pastitsio and a square of spanakopita. The spanakopita (spinach pie) suffered from being held in that its phyllo layers had become soggy, but the other two were excellent renditions, the seasonings used boldly, to advantage. But here’s the thing: They were served on rice. You’ll remember that moussaka contains potatoes, pastitsio pasta and spanakopita, as I noted, phyllo, so what resulted was carb overload. I don’t think I’d have preferred a base of salad, which would’ve gotten soggy, but maybe spinach or something? Or maybe just the three of them on a naked plate?
That, after all, worked just fine for the Aphrodites Cheesecake ($4.95), which I had on my first visit and which I can’t imagine leaving Market Grille Cafe without. It’s billed as a cheesecake with a baklava crust and that’s just what it is, but without overkill. And it was fun to watch it being made on the video loop that was being shown on a few flatscreens around the room.
Service throughout was fine, earnest young people serving earnestly if not without the occasional flaw, which is easy to forgive when the intentions are right.
So yes, Market Grille Cafe has evolved. But it had a great foundation to build on.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0474.