The Grapevine, on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst, is known for its casual American menu with an emphasis on fresh seafood, a patio room with retractable roof, gurgling water features, tropical foliage, and spectacular saltwater tanks full of colorful tropical fish.
Most entrees on the dinner menu hover around $13 to $18, with a few selections above that. So John, Pat and I visited on a Friday at lunchtime, where we enjoyed the same ambience and the same quality of food for about half what you would pay for dinner.
Sandwiches range from $7.49 for the Super Bird, which is turkey breast, bacon, tomato and mozzarella cheese on country white bread, to $9.99 for pulled pork, calamari, blue cheese burger or Reuben, with only the crab cake burger and rib burger hitting $10.99. In those cases, it’s a crab cake and pulled short rib served on top of a one-third-pound burger.
Each of these sandwiches is served with either french fries or fresh fruit, which is a nice alternative.
From the regular menu, we had the turkey cranberry sandwich ($8.49), which the menu describes as turkey, cheddar and cranberry sauce made on grilled cornbread. The bread seemed to be regular white sandwich bread, which in this case is no criticism. It was grilled to buttery, golden brown perfection. The turkey inside, several fresh slices, was warmed and covered with the melted cheddar. The cranberry sauce, very similar to the kind you serve with a Thanksgiving dinner, was a perfect touch.
The special fish fry ($8.50), which according to our server is frequently available, differed from the normal fish fry because it was breaded.
The large plank of fresh haddock was flaky and delicious, and the fish was served with a pile of crisp french fries fresh from the fryer.
A side of cole slaw in a small dish was chopped rather than shredded and dressed with a slight taste of vinegar, a delicious counterpoint to the fried elements.
The tropical fish sandwich ($8.25) was served with a cup of soup; the day’s choices were lentil, French onion and either Manhattan or New England clam chowder. We went for the Manhattan clam, a subtly seasoned, light and flavorful tomato broth packed with chunks of tasty clam and soft potato.
The sandwich was made on a large, soft, slightly sweet roll called a striatta, Italian for “stretched.” The thick portion of fresh haddock was grilled and topped with lettuce and a slice of tomato with the Grapevine’s “signature tropical spread,” which seemed to be a mayo filled with tiny bits of tropical fruits, including mango and pineapple. The sandwich was large and the first bite sent chunks of fish plummeting toward the plate, so lean over unless you want it in your lap. It was well worth the cleanup, though.
The Grapevine Restaurant: Three and a half pennies (out of four)
Where: 2545 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst (691-7799)
Hours: Lunch starts at 11:30 a.m. daily except for Sunday, when brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The kitchen is open until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 p.m. Sunday.