The Village Grille, just off Wyckoff's border with Waldwick, occupies a corner space with a long history of restaurants, some more successful than others.
Chef-owner Bobby Meidanis took it over three years ago next month. It's the first solo venture for Meidanis, a graduate of the University of Delaware's hotel and restaurant school and New York's Institute of Culinary Education.
But it is far from his first time in a restaurant. His father has owned the Ridge Diner in Park Ridge for the past 40 years, and Bobby still helps out there during the week.
When he took over the Village Grille space, Meidanis did some renovation but he retained the faux Tiffany lamps which lend the space the atmosphere and grace of an earlier generation.
Family comfort was his goal, and he has achieved it.
The Village Grille has a liquor license so if you choose wine or spirits, you can guess that your final bill will be higher than BYOB places, but he has kept the prices reasonable for the food he serves.
The menu is large and varied enough to suit most everybody, including young children. The tables and booths are comfortable, and you won't have to use the same forks all the way through the meal, a practice that my partner finds a particular turn-off.
We started by splitting the calamari, one of our restaurant tests. For crispiness, the calamari got an A+. There were two sauces, one supposedly spicy. We did not find the spicy all that spicy. It was clearly geared to people who rarely taste jalapeno peppers, much less habanero.
But both sauces were tasty, and the Village Grille does not pretend to be anything other than an American grill that serves a lot of American Italian dishes, along with some you'll find on Mexican-American or Greek menus.
Each entrée comes with a dinner salad and your choice of dressing. The combo is a money saver though I have to add that they have many tempting larger salads, from caesar to Ttaco, that would serve as a main course.
My partner elected to have the penne with shrimp in vodka sauce for $17.95 while I had the crab cakes with black bean and corn salsa. Both dishes were good if not outstanding, and the portions were large so we skipped dessert though they sounded appealing, especially the "Autumn apple cake" and the "molten lava cake."
Meidanis said that since the recession has begun, there are a lot more people who order salad or a sandwich or soup and salad. "And people who used to come in three times a week, maybe come in only one or two times," he said.
Describing the recession's impact on his business, he said, "It's not been horrible, I'm still in business."
Like many popular restaurants, The Village Grille is busiest on the weekends, and Meidanis said he does late-night business at the bar with live musical acts.
"Early, you'll find a lot of people eating at the bar on weekends, but later we have singers or bands and people come for that, too," he said.
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, but on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the restaurant off the bar is often closed for private parties. Meidanis also caters off-site.
We had two complaints: on a Tuesday night, with few people in a fairly large dining room, the maitre d' wanted to seat us at a small table along a railing and was not happy when my partner insisted on a more comfortable table for four; and that there was a very long wait between the starter and the salads.
Again, at this point there were few people in the restaurant, and we've been at this long enough now to realize that in many restaurants, the fewer the people, the slower the service. The reasons continue to elude us, but it is apparently a truism in the restaurant business, along with prices that end in 95 cents. (We all can realize that's nearly another dollar.)
The Village Grille's menu has clearly been influenced by America's melting pot with everything from a "gourmet meatloaf" to quesadillas to babyback ribs to day boat sea scallops. And if you take a family there, everyone will find something he or she wants and likely be content with the chosen dish.
Entree Price Range: $16.95-$25.95
Children's Menu: Yes
Credit Cards Accepted