The Vine Brook Tavern (20 Waltham St., Lexington, MA) outside of Boston is a fairly new restaurant – the sign out front proudly announces that it was just recently established in 2012. Walking into the restaurant, I was impressed by the warm atmosphere created by the dark wood ceilings and accents. On this level there were high tops and a U-shaped bar. Spacious booths, more tables and another bar were upstairs.
Unexpectedly, the host was dressed like an average Joe, rather than someone who actually worked at the restaurant. He seated us upstairs, and we sat awkwardly without menus for a while. Occasionally he would come back upstairs and walk around for a few seconds before disappearing down the stairs again. Service was agonizingly slow at first – we waited 10 minutes before our water glasses were filled. However, our waitress was very friendly and apologetic about the wait. The manager even came by to say hi.
My boyfriend’s diet coke didn’t arrive until the appetizers did. Luckily the food more than made up for the slow start. The basket of three chedder and bacon biscuits was heavenly. The biscuits were light, fluffy, flakey, and studded with green onions. They were in stark contrast to the sad, complimentary bread basket – a measly two slices of dense, dark brown bread that was cold and tasted like Raisin Bran.
Sweet ‘n sour calamari fries were springy with a good amount of chewiness, though I was a bit disconcerted by their perfectly square cross-section – squid isn’t naturally shaped like this. The shredded lettuce and carrot salad underneath gave the appetizer a unique Vietnamese twist, so overall this dish was pleasant.
Cod cassoulet was served in an oval, cast iron dish that kept it warm throughout my entire meal. The cod was cooked to flakey perfection, and served on a bed of kale and white beans and bacon bits. Yellow and purple potatoes and carrots, smokey, spicy sausage, and 3 local clams rounded out the dish.
My boyfriend ordered the burger, medium. It was served covered in melted cheese. on a brioche bun. The sweet potato fries served in a measuring cup were terrific – crisp, not oily, and accompanied by a trio of ketchup, plain mayo and chipotle mayo.
The desserts sounded tempting but we were too full to order any. As for libations, there were two pages of wines by the bottle, ranging from $25 to $100, and a good selection of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch.
The Final Word: Definitely a lot of potential here. Service needs some work – it tended to be slow, and the host didn’t even say goodbye when we left – but the food was solid.