South City’s Vine Café Dishes Out Mediterranean Food and Culture

South City’s Vine Café Dishes Out Mediterranean Food and Culture
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Fresh Pita, Shawarma, and Hookah at The Vine Café on South Grand

St. Louis, MO/May 17, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) – Everyone who knows anything about where to eat in St. Louis knows about the amazing mix of ethnic cuisines offered along South Grand Blvd. in the city’s Tower Grove South neighborhood.  The bustling strip has always been a hub of local commerce.  “Back in the day” there were dry cleaners, butcher shops, banks, barbers, apothecaries, bookstores, repair shops, and doctors’ offices.  Now, it’s a hub of international cuisine.  One of the more noteworthy establishments along the current South Grand Blvd between Arsenal and Utah Streets is the Vine Mediterranean Café & Market at 3171 South Grand.

This bright, inviting café specializes in Middle Eastern fare—mainly Lebanese—served in a traditional Arabian setting.  The aromas of fresh baked pita and shawarma (a marinated lamb and beef, slow roasted on a vertical spit) entice passersby along the sidewalk.  But one step inside the Vine is like a step into another, more exotic world.  The heady smell of spices, pita, meat, and hookah conjure images of faraway places.

The menu at the Vine invites diners to sample the wares of traditional Mediterranean kitchens.  At the Vine, everything is made fresh every day and every dish on the menu is halal.  Among the apps are hummus and pitas, of course, but also stuffed grape leaves, baba ganoush, falafel, makdous (cured baby eggplant stuffed with walnuts and garlic, topped with pomegranate sauce and olive oil), Labneh (creamy yogurt topped with olive oil and za’atar spice), and Kibbeh (a bulgur wheat and beef shell, stuffed with beef and onions)—plus za’atar spiced wings, chicken tenders with a zesty garlic sauce, and Lebanese Nachos (pita chips topped with hummus, fresh vegetables and labneh).

The shawarma, available in beef and lamb, or chicken, is the star of the menu.  It’s sliced from a vertical spit, similarly to gyro, and served over rice with pita bread.  Unlike the Greek gyro with it’s cool, creamy tzatziki sauce, shawarma is served with tahini sauce, a traditional Middle Eastern blend of sesame paste, lemon juice, and garlic.  The tahini sauce at the Vine is a tangy accompaniment to their rich, savory, and oh-so-tender shaved meat.  Have wrapped in pita and toasted panini-style or served over rice with salad or soup.

Other popular dishes include kebabs (beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp), lamb chops, and chicken shatta (charbroiled chicken breast topped with tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic, and a mix of herbs and spices, sautéed in olive oil).  There’s also a nice selection of vegetarian and vegan options, including a falafel dinner, and Batata Harra (cubed potato, cilantro, garlic, and hot spices sautéed in olive oil).

Besides the usual soft drinks (Coke and Pepsi products), beverage options include fresh juices (orange, apple, mango, and carrot) that can be ordered pure, or blended, or mixed with lemonade.  There are also some traditional drinks: Jallab, made with date juice, almonds and raisins; hot tea with mint, cardamom, or lemon; and strong Lebanese Coffee (with or without cardamom).  There are smoothies too—traditional flavors like banana or mango, but also some less familiar combinations like carrot (blended with banana and honey) and the refreshing mint lemonade smoothie.

There’s a fresh selection of fresh bakery items (like namura and baklava) in the bakery case each day.  Their signature chocolate baklava is worth the trip itself.  If you’re too full to eat dessert after your meal, be sure to get some to go.  Be sure to peruse the Mediterranean market shelves too.  They’re stocked with olives, oils, chickpeas, and rice, along with those exotic Mediterranean spices and some packaged food goodies you won’t find at your local supermarket.  They also offer a large selection of fresh halal meats.  As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an adjacent hookah lounge.

When the weather permits, their outdoor dining area is a great place to enjoy a great meal, strong coffee, and lavish tea while people-watching along the vibrant South Grand Blvd.  If you need to get some work done, bring your laptop because they have free Wi-Fi too.  They also offer catering for small groups and large gatherings.

The Vine Café is open Sunday – Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (kitchen closes 9:30 pm).  The market at the Vine is open Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Monday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  For a sample of their delicious Lebanese cuisine, stop by during the 9th Annual South Grand International Dine Out on May 18th.  The Vine’s coconut dates, pistachio baklava, and namura are among the featured items.

Contact information:

The Vine Mediterranean Café & Market
Manager: Ali Moshen
3171 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118
St. Louis – South City
Phone: (314) 776-0991

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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon is an experienced writer, editor, and broadcast journalist with a strong news background. She’s worked in radio and television news, and for national and international newswire services.

She began her career in public radio while still a student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (where she earned a B.A. in Communications). She soon made the jump to news/talk radio, handling assignments from field reporting, airborne traffic, and news anchor, to producing and hosting daily talk shows. She’s also worked in television, most recently as the inaugural producer for The Allman Report on KDNL-TV 30, and as a news writer and reporter for national and international newswire services.