Lake Elsinore/Canyon Lakes CA -- Grapes & Tomatoes
Discovered this gem, about five minutes east of I-15, just off of Railroad Canyon Road in Lake Elsinore. It's in the Canyon Hills Shopping Center, behind a Jack in the Box. It well worth a 10 minute detour -- round trip -- if you're heading north or south on I-15. While in a typical local shopping center, the decor inside of Grapes & Tomatoes is a cut above.
My first visit to Grapes and Tomatoes was this past week for dinner and the calzone I had an excellent, almost perfectly cooked and stuffed with the toppings I ordered. Although I would have liked it to have been a bit bigger -- so I would have been able to take some home -- but maybe the fact that there was nothing to put in a box is the best commentary that it was really excellent. The rest of the menu is eclectic from pizza and Italian favorites, to American fare with a continental twist. I will be back to sample many more entrees.
I am not a big win drinker but I noted that they serve many wines by the glass, including some local favorites from Temecula Wine Country, about 15 miles to the south. They also serve craft beers, including one of my favorites from Hanger 24.
My server, Erica, was also excellent and mentioned that they serve a Sunday brunch. When asked to see a menu, she brought on back to my table before I paid the reasonable check. I saw Orange Ricotta Pancakes on the menu.
Best of all Erica explained that the patio is dog-friendly, a big plus in my book so I returned today with my Golden Retriever, Savannah. She was greeted with a huge dog biscuit, a nice touch. I arrived just after 10, and already it was over 85. They have misters on the patio but weren't turned on when I was there. The dining room was near empty.
As far as my return visit, it exceeded my expectations; the two huge pancakes were light and fluffy, with just the right hint of orange and ricotta flavors. Served with raspberries, Applewood smoked bacon, and a tasty orange syrup, was excellent and well worth the $11 price. I drove back home feeling totally filled.
This establishment has been open less than a year and still needs time to fully hit its stride but in my opinion, is off to a promising start. One suggestion I would make, especially in the ramp-up stage is to get WiFi enabled. I'm certain this will help its lunch and Sunday brunch business. While I can tether my laptop to my Android, many people can't so having a fast WiFi connection is sure to attract new customers, especially given that the Starbucks in the same shopping center closed at just about the same time that Grapes & Tomatoes opened.
Based on the overall package, I give Grapes & Tomatoes four stars. Add WiFi, and it will inch closer to five. It's well worth the short drive from I-15 as you'll pass about a half dozen fast food eateries along the way. Just think of what you'll be missing. Like the Beer Hunter that I reviewed previously, this is a welcome addition to an area that has few serious dining options.