Greenhouse Cafe (This restaurant is now closed)
2300 Chapel Hill Road
Durham, NC 27707
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11 am-2:30 pm and 5-8
Review Date: September 1, 1999
Reviewers: Mike Germano, Cassandra Germano, Linda McGown, Ricki Zameck, Bob Conrow, Susan Neulist, Richard Neul
This was my first attempt at coordinating and attending a restaurant review, and I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was. We met at Durham's 6-month-old Greenhouse Cafe, the home-like site some of you may recall from Suman's Indian Take-Out's original location. The co-owner/waiter, Will Foy, very patiently and carefully described the menu options when I called. Several calls later he was still just as patient. The seating area in the restaurant is very small, and he had several tables arranged together by the time we arrived. There is a large take-out window in the dining room (which is actually a converted front porch), and the restaurant offers take-out service, however it did not feel like a take-out diner. Greenhouse Cafe is not a fancy place, but it is very relaxing, casual, and definitely cozy. I found Will and Linda (co-owner/chef) to be very accommodating. For such a small restaurant, the vegetarian/vegan options were quite impressive, though you'll want to call ahead to be sure there will be at least one vegan entree.
The main entree selection changes daily, but there is also the regular menu to select from. The appetizers du jour were both vegetarian; Cassandra and Linda ordered the Bread Crumb and Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms, which Linda described as "a little spicy (good), crunchy, filling, cheesy but not overpowering." Several ordered the one vegan soup, Pumpkin Peanut, and found it "very creative and tasty; very unusual; excellent - a very original taste, one of the best soups ever," and one person found it "too pumpkiny for my taste but I'm not a big fan of orange vegetables."
All but one of the main entrees were vegetarian or vegan, which were all the same price ($7.95). Michael and Manon ordered one of the vegan entrees, Jerk Tofu with Coconut Jasmine rice and Banana chutney (others were interested in ordering this too, but the cafe only had two portions left). Both Michael and Manon said it was very good and tasty, with Michael adding that it could use more coconut flavor. Richard, Susan, and Linda ordered the other vegan entree, Citrus-accented Black Beans + Veggies over Rice. Comments included, "just the right spice," and "...good, not great. A little pasty, rice not very firm. Nice bite to it but could use more flavor. Filling, large portion." Mike ordered a vegetarian entree, Black Bean Moussaka with mini Greek salad and liked it. I ordered the other vegetarian entree, Linguine with lemon-parmesan cream sauce. The lemon flavoring was just right, not overpowering. The lemon flavor came from finely shredded bits of lemon peel in the sauce. I thought it was probably a high-calorie dish; but worth the calories! The salad came with a choice of several homemade dressings. I chose sundried tomato, which was very good.
The regular menu offers salads and sandwich-type items. About half of the ample selection is vegetarian, from which Ricki, Bob, and Cassandra ordered. They chose Greek Salad, Mediterranean Pasta Salad, and Very Veggie Sub. Ricki commented "aesthetically arranged - visually pleasing, great aroma, very tasty." Bob commented that the Mediterranean Pasta Salad was tasty, but too oily...they substituted tofu for feta - nice!
A few of us ordered dessert...the selection of desserts is rather limited (and none is vegan). Mostly people ordered cookies; the oatmeal-cranberry was very good. Other selections were chocolate chip cookies and brownies.
Atmosphere definitely affects the whole dining experience, and as I think back on the evening, two things come to my mind. One is the comfortable (although simple) atmosphere of Greenhouse Cafe, and the other is the extremely friendly nature of our waitperson Will. I heard several people comment about his friendliness and hospitality during the meal. One wrote, "ambience could stand some improvement - though in fairness, one must point out that this is a new place and not a big-budget operation." I agree, and would like to add that part of the charm of Greenhouse Cafe is that it is not a big-budget operation. Even the restroom was cozy, having a little end table with a small, homey lamp on it, which seemed like a thoughtful touch.
Greenhouse Cafe is a good choice for relaxing, casual dining with a nice selection of creative dishes. Catering, corporate lunches, and take-out are also available.