Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Grove

The Grove
600 Central SE
Albuquerque, NM

The  Grove in SE Albuquerque has the following motto: local and organic produce, all-natural meats, artisan breads and cheeses.  We love good food and this certainly sounded like where to get it, so we went to The Grove to see what it was all about.

The restaurant itself has a very pleasing environment.  The walls are painted light blue with green accents and the white plank ceiling is charming.  There are lots of windows, pretty organic sort of pictures on the walls, a concrete floor, and large patio area outside.  It was rather warm so we decided to eat inside. 

Restaurant View from the Dining Area

At The Grove, you walk up to the counter and order from a large menu written on a chalkboard on the wall above and behind it.  There is a large breakfast menu, but it was 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and we opted for lunch.  They serve breakfast all day and lunch starts at 11:00.  There were salads, sandwiches, and soup on the lunch menu and a large selection of coffee drinks from which to choose.  There is no soda fountain and drinks are of the more natural variety featuring juices and some sparkling beverages (one of us had a headache and was hoping for a Coke but that was not to be had and was disappointing but not unexpected).  There were fresh baked breads, cookies, cupcakes, and macaroons for dessert and they all looked lovely. 

Part of the atmosphere comes from the huge bank of windows
bringing in lots of natural light.

We chose two sandwiches – the Three Cheese and the Turkey Toastie.  They came with only one option for a side – fresh fruit.  We like fresh fruit, but were hoping for potato chips or another choice.  Having only fresh fruit for a side was disappointing.  In addition to the sandwiches, we also chose the Passion Fruit, Banana Salted Caramel, and Chocolate cupcakes to try.

The dining room was full with the lunch crowd, but after you place your order and pay for your ticket, a waiter will help you find a table.  We had a small table next to a bank of windows looking out onto the patio which was fine.  The room was noisy, but not offensively so; the tables were close, but since the wait staff was only delivering finished plates, they didn’t present any obstacles.  Shortly after we were seated the lunch rush began to clear and things quieted down. 

Simple, organic images adorn the walls.

While we waited for our sandwiches, we tried the three different cupcakes.  The Passion Fruit cupcake was lovely, iced, and topped with a slice of glazed orange.  The cake was moist and dense and simply delicious, filled with passion fruit flavor.  The icing was good and not too sweet, but the glazed orange slice tasted overripe and unappealing.  Other than that, we absolutely loved it!  Such a unique, sweet, flavorful, surprisingly delightful, and perfect dessert.  We would suggest you definitely try one, but skip the garnish!

Clockwise from top left: Banana Salted Caramel, Passion Fruit, Chocolate

The Banana Salted Caramel cupcake was not as impressive.  The base was more banana bread than cake, dense and sweet and was very good.  The salted caramel icing was too salty and we did not care for it.  It did not compliment the banana bread and after one taste we wanted no more of it.  We scraped it off and ate the banana bread instead!  We’ve had other salted caramel desserts that were heavenly, but this one missed the mark.  For caramel, the icing was too light and over whipped and again, too salty.

The Chocolate cupcake looked lovely.  It was iced with chocolate ganache and topped with semisweet chocolate discs.  The ganache was good, but a little too sweet for our taste, and the cake was dry and crumbly.  The cake flavor was rich and not too sweet and went well with the ganache, but it was so dry we didn’t eat it.  We picked the chocolate discs off the top and they were good, but we weren't wowed.

After about fifteen minutes our sandwiches arrived served on metal trays lined with parchment paper.  There were three bread and butter pickles on each plate next to the sandwiches and a small dish of fruit salad.  The fruit salad consisted of red grapes, some of which were past their prime and unappetizing, chopped apple, cantaloupe, and strawberries.  They were macerated in what tasted like sugar and it was sweet, but not overly so.  It wasn't a particularly unique fruit salad – more like what you’d make at home – but fresh.

The Three Cheese sandwich for $6.95 was sourdough bread filled with cheddar, havarti, and provolone cheese grilled in a Panini press.  The bread was nicely toasted and crunchy but very greasy.  You can order green chili, sweet pickles, or caramelized onions to go on your sandwich, which we did not, but wished we had.  This was basically a dressed up grilled cheese sandwich.  The sourdough bread was nice, but it was a very plain, flavorless sandwich overall.  We would definitely recommend trying it with one of the additions if you order it.  Perhaps some hot green chili would spice it up.  Not sure how sweet pickles would work but you can decide on your own about that.

Three Cheese Sandwich

The Turkey Toastie for $9.50 was roasted turkey, whole grain mustard, tomato, and havarti cheese on whole wheat bread, again toasted in a Panini press.  The whole grain bread was nice, but overall, this sandwich had no flavor.  Let’s face it, turkey is bland, havarti cheese is bland, and although there was some whole grain mustard on the sandwich, there wasn’t enough to give it the punch it needed.  We would have liked to see some sun dried tomatoes, or peperoncini, or even more mustard to help out.  Or maybe offer it with pepper jack cheese -that would have been nice to give it a kick.  The bread and butter pickles were good on the side, but three tiny pickle slices could not save the day.

Toastie Turkey Sandwich
(tomatoes ordered on the side, but usually come on the sandwich).

There is a water refill station in the dining room where you can get more water if you like, but the entire time we were there – over an hour – the water container was empty.  Several diners went for water and were disappointed as they did not notice that the far right register at the ordering counter is designated for to go orders as well as refills.  The refill station was refilled just before we left.

We did not eat all of our lunch at The Grove.  After a few bites of each sandwich we determined they were just average and we picked at the parts we wanted, but left a good amount on the trays.  Overall this is a nice, pleasant restaurant, but the quality of the sandwiches, the options available and the whole experience were not enough to make us want to go back.  If we were in that part of town and hungry, we might try it again.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that great.  And in our opinion, when you’re going out, you want something great, something more than you would make at home, something to make you smile.  That didn’t happen here.  It was fine.  Nice, clean, pleasant, but just fine.  Nothing to write home about.

Grove Café & Market on Urbanspoon

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