The Greater Boston area is home to many people of Greek ancestry, with pockets of Greek and Greek-American folks found in such places as Roslindale, Arlington, Watertown, Peabody, Belmont, and Newton, but there really aren’t that many Greek restaurants in the region, even with the opening of a handful of new spots over the past several years.
A few Greek friends jokingly explain that the reason for so few restaurants is that the cooking they get at home is so good that there’s really no need to dine out, but whatever the reason, it can be tough finding good old-fashioned Greek comfort food in and around Boston. This is why the opening of a new Greek dining spot tends to come with some real anticipation, which seems to have happened with Grape Leaf Mediterranean Grill, a little eatery in Newton Highlands that was packing them in soon after it debuted this spring, including lines right out the door. The lines seem justified, however, with Grape Leaf being quite an impressive place that has the potential to become a regular haunt for those who love Greek fare.
Grape Leaf resides in one of the most charming parts of Newton, right in the heart of the village of Newton Highlands, which feels like a quiet hamlet much farther away from downtown Boston than it seems (by the way, for those of you who rely on public transportation, a Green Line stop is located a few steps away from the place).
Like some of the other dining spots in the village, this is a pretty tiny place, with one room consisting of an ordering counter, a display case of food, and that’s about it, while a second room off to the left has a few tables with bench seats and chairs along with a high-top or two. The slightly cramped digs indicate that this is more of a takeout spot than a dine-in restaurant (especially if you live nearby), but if you don’t mind sitting in a space that feels closer to a house of pizza than, say, L’Espalier or Deuxave, you should be ok.
Because it’s such a small restaurant—and because the food is made fresh—the menu at Grape Leaf is relatively small, and there are no guarantees that it will have everything available, especially later in the day. But the menu here has many of the familiar Greek items found at other dining spots in the area, plus a few traditional items that are a bit less common. Some of the options include a refreshing “Village Salad” that has olives, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and a zingy Greek dressing; tiropita, or a hearty cheese pie that is more savory than sweet and is a bit like spanakopita but is all cheese rather than cheese and spinach; roasted lemon potatoes that are just a touch on the dry side but are more lemony than most, brightening up the flavor of the wedges quite a bit; meat-stuffed grape leaves that are tightly packed and have a deep, rich flavor, possibly among the best tried in the Boston area, actually; a falafel gyro that has a sweeter taste to its falafel than you might expect, but the sweetness is subtle enough to keep from overwhelming the herbs and spices; a marvelous version of pastitsio with pasta, ground beef, a rich red sauce, and creamy bechamel; a lamb gyro made with hand-cut rotisserie meat; and a slice of baklava with just the right mix of sweet and savory. Other offerings at Grape Leaf include hummus, tabouli, moussaka, youvetsi (braised lamb with red sauce and rice pilaf), chicken souvlaki, and pork kabobs. Beer and wine are unfortunately not available at Grape Leaf, so expect to stick to soda, juice, or water. Prices are extremely reasonable overall, with most items under or just around $10, while the aforementioned youvetsi tops out at around $13.
Grape Leaf seems like a pretty solid place overall, with the only minor quibbles being the rather plain environment (again, consider takeout if you can) and the possibility that not everything will be available if you go late in the day. But between the friendly folks behind the counter, the tasty and inexpensive food, and the easy parking (and easy access from the Green Line), there’s definitely a lot to like about one of the Boston area’s newest Greek restaurants, and it’ll be interesting to see if it continues to get the crowds that it was getting when it first opened not too long ago.
GRAPE LEAF MEDITERRANEAN GRILLE. 6 LINCOLN ST., NEWTON. GRAPELEAFNEWTON.COM