Restaurant Review: Market Grille Cafe
RESTAURANT REVIEW: MARKET GRILLE CAFE
I really wanted to like Market Grille Cafe. Unfortunately, this will not be a fawning recommendation.
It makes me sad to write this review because Market Grille Cafe is just the type of local family-owned business that we all want to support and hope will succeed. Their anchor location — in far northwest Las Vegas on Durango — first opened 17 years ago. Later, Market Grille Cafe opened a smaller store on W. Lake Mead, geared more towards takeout and counter service. I’m not sure if “Greco-Roman” is the proper moniker to describe their extensive menu, but Market Grille Cafe does offer an extensive combination of traditional Italian and Greek dishes. The cuisine’s dual citizenship was sparked by the husband-wife team that founded the restaurant(s) and continues to run them daily.
From their website — family patriarch Joe Pierro moved to Las Vegas from Buffalo, NY, where he launched a lifelong love of Italian cooking in a pizzeria at age 13. His story is quintessentially American —– and so typical of Las Vegas, which is a giant melting pot of transplants. His wife, Rhonda, originally from Steubenville, OH (most famous as the hometown of Dean Martin and Jimmy “the Greek”) also grew up with a love of food and cooking. Her parents were originally from Greece. Ultimately, the Pierros were not only married but also combined their distinctive cuisines and cultures, which explains how the Market Grille Café came to be.
The flagship location looks like a fancier version of an Olive Garden. This isn’t meant as a criticism. Rather, it should be noted we’re dining in a casual family-style setting, with few frills. Let me put it another way: Any restaurant with booths pretty much screams — we’re one step up from a truck stop. But alas, there’s an open kitchen, with some of the cooking done in what looks to be a converted bar area. And, Market Grille Cafe welcomes new arrivals with a dessert tray positioned at the entrance. Desert tray = always a nice touch.
We started off splitting a bowl of Avgolemono ($9), which is sorta’ like a chicken and rice soup flavored with lemon zest. We’ve ordered Avgolemono at least a hundred times from a dozen Greek restaurants in the past, but this was the most problematic. First, the texture was closer to oatmeal than soup. Second, this Avgolemono was far too sour, likely from way too much lemon. It simply overwhelmed the contents. Third, the cheese (cheddar?) on top didn’t match the traditional recipe. We didn’t finish it.
We tried two house specialties. Marieta ordered the Greek Trio ($21) as her main dish, which came with a Greek salad. I had the Vasilos Platter ($20), also served with a salad. Marieta was pleased with the mix of spanokopita, mousaka, and pastitsio. However, the rice was dry and bland. I agreed. The rice was problematic. Of course, no one goes to a restaurant for rice. Nonetheless, this was a second strike against it.
Strike three followed. My main dish consisted primarily of gyro meat, which is typically shaven from a revolving grill. Again, this is an item I’ve ordered countless times elsewhere. It’s standard Greek fare. However, the meat was dry, and even seemed reheated (I don’t know this for sure; just a hunch). Having enjoyed so many excellent other Greek restaurants in Las Vegas, and previously ordered many gyro-centric meals, this was the most disappointing. Finally, our impression wasn’t helped by the pita bread, served cold (many places warm it up).
That dessert tray that tempted me when walking in no longer was appealing. If Market Grille Cafe missed on so many other aspects of the dining experience, the “homemade dessert” simply couldn’t be trusted.
Service was friendly and efficient. The bill arrived. Two meals, a bowl of soup, and no drinks came to $50. With a $10 tip, we were out the door for $60. Once out in the parking lot, we both agreed that other local Greek restaurants, including Meraki Grill and Yassou, are both better and cheaper.
Summation: In all, Marieta and I have now made three visits. The first was about ten years ago, which we found mediocre. The second visit was during the COVID-19 shutdown when many restaurants scaled back and even shut down. At that time, we tried their second location on Lake Mead. The third visit was last Saturday afternoon. We hoped that perhaps the restaurant would leave a better impression, but that didn’t happen. Alas, the third time was not a charm.
I tried. I really wanted to like Market Grille Cafe. But I can’t give them my recommendation. Despite my admiration for this family and their story, I do not plan to return anytime soon.
Read More: Here’s a nice article about Market Grille Cafe and its owners during the COVID shutdown.