Olive Vine Cafe doesn’t look like much from the outside. The front of the restaurant looks uninviting, with a nondescript reception area, a drab-looking open kitchen, and no obvious place to sit. A sandwich board sign by the entrance cryptically announces: “Heated Bedouin Tent.” What does that even mean?
Once inside, though, past the uninviting front area, the place is beautiful. The rustic dining area–or tent, I suppose–features tapestries hanging on the walls and draped across the ceiling. In the warm weather, a peaceful garden has Brooklyn outdoor dining written all over it, with casual plastic furniture, statuettes, and brownstone surroundings. The service is friendly and welcoming.
And the food is great.
Like at many Middle-Eastern restaurants, the appetizers are the highlight of the menu. Labana, the classic spiced and minted yogurt dip, is creamy and rich, going great with the fresh pita. Hummus is exceptionally smooth. I particularly like a combination of spinach and chickpeas, cooked with tomatoes and topped with crispy onions. Lentil and bulgar salad is a delicious surprise, with a grainy texture that nicely complements the creaminess of the hummus, babaganoush, or labana.
Go for an “assorted plate,” which gets you five appetizers of your choice and some warm pita for $10. Or try the “Olive Vine salad,” the classic chopped cucumber and tomato salad with feta.
For two people (or three, if you count the baby, himself a big lentil and bulgar fan), we will often supplement the assorted plate with one of Olive Vine’s fine “pitzas,” which offer a nice Middle-Eastern twist on the Italian staple. Lamb options abound. We are fond of a tomato and cheese pitza with artichokes and a garlic parsley mix.
For dinner, we will occasionally order one of four true “entrees.” Chicken gyro is really nicely seasoned and tender, probably having been marinated a long time before being skewered and cooked slowly. Falafel is plump and pleasingly soft inside, with a touch of heat.
End the meal with a strong Turkish coffee, and perhaps a piece of honey cake.
Olive Vine Cafe
54 7th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Recommended dishes: assorted plate ($10), lentil & bulgar ($5.50-$7.50), Olive Vine salad ($6-$8), pitza ($7.50+), falafel ($8.50), chicken gyro ($12).