Grapevine Café & Galley offers more that just fine dining

An evening spent at Grapevine Café & Gallery wasn’t just a gastronomical feast, but also a visual and auditory treat as well.

Located in Donaldsonville’s historic downtown, the quaint structure features exposed red brick against pale green walls, exposed beams, mosaic tile flooring, ceiling fans and recessed, subdued lighting.

The Grapevine’s south Louisiana fare was complemented that night by original artwork on the walls around us. The eatery has rotating exhibits by area artists, and two special commissioned pieces hang above the two front windows.

“People are always asking about the snakes,” chef and co-owner Cynthia Schneider later told us. “They try to figure out if they’re poisonous or non-poisonous.”

The horizontal sculptures by Gonzales artist Willie Willie are colorful, and fill the space between the tops of the windows and the ceiling . Using the “red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, friend of Jack” adage, our group determined if the snakes were real they would be poisonous.

In addition to the art, the duo of artist and co-owner Steve Schneider on mandolin and Lester Kenyon on guitar and vocals entertained diners for a few hours, playing ’70s hits.

We started with an appetizer of crawfish cornbread ($8.95). The large, piping hot square of bread was dotted with small crawfish and topped with crawfish etouffee. The etouffee was nicely spiced and, with the cornbread, was a wonderful pairing of flavors.

The house salads accompanying the entrees were an attractive presentation of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and okra drizzled with a house-made dressing of choice. We can recommend the ranch and bleu cheese.

A guest tried the spinach and andouille stuffed fish of the day ($18.95), which was trout finished with a lemon butter sauce. The trout was exceptionally fresh, and the melding of the flavors — the smokiness of the andouille and the creaminess of the spinach-cheese blend — were very complementary and not overpowering.

The crabmeat stuffed eggplant wheels ($17.95) were also quite satisfying. The large slices of eggplant were battered and lightly fried, then a thick layer of crabmeat formed into a cake was placed between the two slices. The wheels were covered with the Grapevine’s signature red sauce, thin, light and tasty, and sat upon a bed of angel hair pasta.

The ribeye ($26.95) was cooked to medium as ordered and served alongside some more of that great lemon butter sauce for dipping. The steak was packed with flavor and didn’t really need the added topping, crabmeat, but the mild and robust flavors again worked well together.

Some of the entrees also came with creamy rough mashed (skin-on) potatoes and the vegetable of the day, green beans. These were cooked in a traditional Louisiana way, with pieces of bacon, adding to the taste and texture.

In addition to to-go boxes, we took home two desserts, the lemon icebox pie ($4.75) and white chocolate bread pudding ($5.75). The pie was average, but the bread pudding, for which the restaurant is known and for which it has won awards, was delicious. The pudding was almost cake-like in texture, and the chocolate sauce topping wonderful. A winner for us, too.