The pool table and the bowling machine are long gone, the old chipboard walls now are covered with pretty wallpaper, and a new executive chef is in charge of the tiny kitchen, but rest assured: The Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar (17105 Grovewood Avenue, 216-531-4900) remains a groovy little spot to grab some dinner and a well-priced bottle of wine.
With recent announcements that two of the Grovewood's former chefs, Mark Wilson and Tim Ogan, are launching their own restaurants, we got to wondering what's up at the seminal East Side eatery as it enters its seventh year. What started as a small Euro-contemporary menu under Wilson has now morphed into a substantial listing of world-fare faves, including yakatori on chilled sesame noodles, chicken paprikash, and seared tuna loin. The options are growing still further under new Executive Chef Alex Daniels, who has cooked with superstars like Charlie Trotter and Wolfgang Puck, and was the Grovewood's sous-chef for eight months.
While his new menu should debut any minute, Daniels has been testing the waters with sassy daily specials, including dishes like roasted duck with herbed risotto, smoked bison and goat-cheese crêpes, and game-sausage Bolognese on polenta triangles. (If you want to try one, though, we suggest you come in early: When we dropped by around 7:30 on a recent Tuesday night, nearly all the specials -- including some fab-sounding desserts -- were sold out.)
The kitchen also flubbed a grilled chicken sandwich ($8), sending it to the table without the promised toppings of brie and toasted almonds; our server graciously took it back for a fix-up, but when it returned, it was barely at room temperature. Adding to the pain, oven-roasted potatoes on the side were so undercooked, they practically crunched.
Still, a combo of succulent filet medallions and a killer crab cake with garlic mashed potatoes ($21) rocked, and a giant mesclun salad topped with panko-crusted boursin and candied walnuts ($12) was a meal in itself.
Since the departure of longtime wine guy Lee Karr, general manager and sommelier-in-training Johnny Hutton has become the resident oenophile. Other additions include a 25-seat patio, an off-site catering program, and an outpost at the nearby Beachland Ballroom, where the menu features burgers and wraps for hungry concertgoers. Dinner is served from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 4 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.