Photo credit: Grape Vine Café

Grape Vine Café Finding Ways to Survive During Pandemic

It had been years since I’d stopped in to Grape Vine Café, partly because Lake Mead and Buffalo is at the opposite end of the Valley from my abode, but after several invitations from Co-owner Linda Kutcher I finally made my way there last month and am very glad I did.

We were thoroughly impressed with the extreme high quality of the food and reasonable prices. Being a big fan of both risotto and short rib, I couldn’t resist selecting the slow braised beef short ribs with red wine reduction accompanied with mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. We also enjoyed the beefsteak tomato & gorgonzola appetizer served with red onions, olive oil, balsamic and basil; and herb chicken marinated in garlic and herbs. While the menu leans toward Italian specialties with several pasta dishes, pizza and entrees such as chicken marsala, seafood fra diavolo and eggplant parmesan, there is a lot of variety, with crowd pleasers like Chilean sea bass, filet Oscar, lamb chops, seared ahi and grilled salmon. 

One of the stars of the meal was the bread baked in-house by Co-owner Moeen Taqi (Kutcher’s partner and fiancé) and served straight from the oven, which is so good you could easily fill up on it and will likely want to order more to take home. Moeen makes a different variety each day and we greatly enjoyed his olive/jalapeno creation. In fact, the night we dined, our friend Beth (Lola) Pokorny, owner of Lola’s, showed up to get a loaf to take on her vacation. What a compliment when a fellow restaurant owner makes their way to your restaurant to indulge in one of your finest offerings. In addition, during our visit entertainer Frankie Moreno picked up bread and I’m told many guests have their favorite flavors that they look forward to.

As the name would suggest, wine is taken seriously here, and one section of the restaurant is filled with racks containing the extensive selection for sale dine-in or to go. Linda Kutcher shared that they are fortunate to have a retail license and that during the shutdown she offered bottles at discount pricing (at 50% off retail), which proved to be quite popular, prompting several of their patrons to order frequently and several treated the Café as their liquor store. Linda expounded on the wine sales and added that after the restaurant reopened for dine-in she is continuing to offer the same discounted pricing on all the wines and the price for dine-in is only $15 more than the to go price. The wine list, with about 200 choices, has excellent renowned wineries represented, with the likes of Twomey, Cakebread, Chalk Hill, Tobin James, Duckhorn, J Lohr and Justin. 

Earlier I mentioned that we were impressed by the reasonable prices, which is actually an understatement. There are so many great deals to be found here. Entrees, which range in price mainly from $22-25, include a small house salad, Caesar salad or soup; on Monday all bottles on the wine list are half off; there are daily chalkboard specials; and during the daily happy hour from 3-6 p.m. wine by-the-glass and bottled beer is 50% off and several appetizers are deeply discounted. 

Linda and Moeen purchased the restaurant in 2015 and although the name was changed from Grape Street to Grape Vine, the menu is basically the same with evolving changes over the years. One constant is the warm hospitality and great value you will find here. Although it had been years since my last visit, there is no doubt we will be returning much more frequently and once you make your way there, I’m confident that will be case for you as well.

Grape Vine Café 

7501 W Lake Mead #120

grapevinevegas.com 

Hospitality Expert Launches Podcast to Help Young Professionals

Sam Bracamontes, a professional with a decade of experience in the food & beverage and hospitality industry, has created a podcast called “Corporate Entrepreneurs” to provide young

professionals with realistic expectations and valuable insights from successful experts that will help them through and beyond the pandemic. Bracamontes’ experience ranges from bartending to working as a sales distributor and the owner operator of a family restaurant. He is currently the Regional Sales Manager for a well-known spirits company and very passionate about his new-found role as a mentor, sharing his knowledge and skills through his podcast.

The “Corporate Entrepreneurs” podcast covers an array of topics including resume building, mastering the interview process, self-branding through cocktail competitions, creating partnerships, building credit in a cash driven industry, understanding profit and loss and navigating the changes within the hospitality industry post COVID-19.

The podcast features conversations with notable guests such as Constantin Alexander, the National Beverage Director of Hakkasan Group; John Anthony, co-owner of Sparrow + Wolf; Cary Mano, Fever Tree’s Regional Sales Manager; Cody Fredrickson, Master of Whisky at Scotch 80 Prime and Chef Barry S. Dakake; and Marco Licione and Yassine Lyoubi, co-owners of Barry’s Downtown Prime. 

To listen to episodes visit:
linktr.ee/corporateentrepreneurs.

 

Photo credit: Barbara Kraft

The Vegas Buffet Lives On

With all the new restrictions brought on by COVID-19, it appeared the renowned Vegas buffets would go by the wayside. Chalk it up to Vegas ingenuity, so far such is not quite the case. At the time of this writing, at least three (The Buffet at Wynn, Wicked Spoon at The Cosmo and Garden Buffet at Southpoint) Vegas buffets have reopened with new and (I think) improved innovations. Of course, long gone are the self-serve indulgences, as now servers are the ones who place your individually plated selections on your tray or deliver them to your table. Also, you will need to wear a mask whenever leaving your seat, observe social distancing and you’ll likely need a reservation. 

Last month I was able to check out firsthand The Buffet at Wynn and opted for the gourmet dinner buffet served Friday-Sunday. The first change was upon entering the resort from the self-parking garage our temperatures were checked, but done so by a machine without us even being aware it was happening, other than being pleasantly greeted by two people operating the machine. 

At the buffet, tables are spread apart for social distancing and once seated you are given a single-use paper menu (or you can access a QR code downloadable menu) with about 90 items ranging from sushi, steak, seafood, Far East and Mediterranean specialties, and told you can order three items at a time, as often as you like within a two-hour time period. Some items were delivered by our server pretty quickly, while those that were cooked to order took a bit longer, but the wait was never very long and having three items to enjoy before reordering meant we certainly didn’t go hungry while waiting. 

Some of my favorite dishes were the lobster bisque, California roll, miso-marinated ribeye, seafood paella, steak and lobster topped with a Bearnaise sauce and berry crumble dessert topped with vanilla ice cream. 

Executive Chef Jonathan Bauman shared he appreciates having each dish plated with the accoutrements he chooses to accompany and complement the menu item, such as double cut lamb chops with truffle spinach and crispy onions; chili marinated lamb T-bone with spicy cilantro sauce, eggplant puree and charred scallions; lobster ravioli featuring roasted red peppers and fennel finished with saffron sauce; and herb marinated chicken with wild mushrooms, corn, Savoy cabbage and potato mousseline. 

I was impressed with the open kitchen, seeing all chefs with masks in place, as well as all employees, and that our server reminded us to put our masks back on when ordering from him, all of which show great attention to detail regarding safety measures. Also, the plated dishes with manageable portion sizes results in a huge reduction in waste, as in the past patrons would pile their plate sky high and eat only half.

Admittedly I’m not a fan of the traditional buffet, and found this new rendition much to my liking. I appreciated never having to leave my seat, being able to order steak cooked to my preference and the quality of the dishes at the level of fine dining to my thinking makes this more of an all-you-can-eat sit-down restaurant than a buffet, which even at its most expensive price point seems a good value for unlimited feasting on high quality, high priced ingredients such as ribeye, lamb, crab and lobster. And, although there is now a two-hour time limit, after 75 minutes I was completely full, so that restriction should not be an issue for most people.

Prices are $36.99 for brunch and $59.99 for dinner on Monday & Thursday, and $36.99 for gourmet brunch and $65.99 for gourmet dinner Friday-Sunday (closed on Tuesday and Wednesday). 

For more details, to make a reservation and to view the complete menus, visit wynnlasvegas.com/dining/casual-dining/the-buffet.