DINING: First Bites – Café Euro on Miracle Mile

Can the fast casual approach, which has taken Vero by storm at lunchtime, be made to work equally well for dinner?

We would say the jury is very much out after trying a second Vero fast casual restaurant, Café Euro, which just introduced dinner this past week.

Founded last winter by John Marx, proprietor of the popular Polo Grill on Vero’s Ocean Drive, the French-inspired café has developed a strong following at breakfast and lunchtime with patrons queuing at the counter where they order and pay, before taking a seat in one of Euro’s banquettes to wait for food to be brought to the table by a server.

Marx originally planned to turn Café Euro into a white table-cloth restaurant for dinner, with an upscale menu and full table service, but changed his mind in September only hours before launch. Now, he is trying the fast casual formula in the evening as well.

Headline news: The big question in our view, as we suggested a couple of weeks back in our First Bites review of Chive’s on Royal Palm Pointe, is how many people will find the fast-casual approach to lunch-hour dining equally appealing at the dinner-hour.

Look & Feel: Café Euro is located at the western end of Treasure Coast Plaza just behind TooJays. The restaurant has an atmosphere a bit reminiscent of Provence, and you can sit at either tables or banquettes arrayed along the glass wall.

Food: Here’s how it works. When you enter Café Euro, instead of being seated by a maître‘d, you queue at the front counter where you order what you want from the menu. For openers, there is a choice of a half dozen salads or soups. Then for your entrée, you can select one of nine pasta dishes, one of three casseroles with a puff pastry top, or a quiche Lorraine. If none of these appeals, there also are sandwich and burger options. Finally, you can choose beer or wine either by the glass or the bottle. After you pay for your meal, you head for a table with your beverage in hand and wait for a server to bring you your food.

The ordering, in my experience, is not the 60-second task of choosing a sandwich and paying for it at lunchtime. Unless you have dined there previously and members of your party have decided what they want before they arrive, deciphering the dinner menu and making your choices while standing in front of the cash register is going to take a few minutes.

This is not, in my view, a fun way to start an enjoyable dinner.

But the food, as you might expect of a place owned by Marx, is quite good.

On this visit, I ordered the very small French salad ($1.99 with an entrée), my husband had the small Caesar (also $1.99) and our companion had a cup of cream of vegetable soup (a bit pricy at $5.95).

Then for entrées, I had the Parisian chicken stew ($12.95), my husband chose the ragout of lamb Lyon ($12.95) and our companion opted for the shrimp Vesuvio ($13.95).

The flavorful chicken stew was made with chicken thighs, potato, corn, carrots, peas and a hint of lemon zest, all with a large puff pastry top. The ragout featured slow cooked tender lamb, crushed San Marzano tomatoes and potatoes, also with a puff pastry top. Both of these dishes were good.

Our companion’s dish consisted of six large shrimp sautéed with butter, cream and mushroom sauce and served over capellini pasta. This was a very rich and tasty pasta dish.

Drink: Café Euro offers a selection of quite decent Italian wines at $3.95 per glass, or a variety of bottles arrayed behind the counter with no wine list to guide your choice. We stuck with the wine by the glass.

Service: While a server brings the food to your table when it is ready, we were a bit taken aback on our visit last week to find the courses all arriving at our table at one time. Hence, our companion who had ordered a cup of soup as her appetizer was presented with both the soup and her entrée simultaneously.

Then when it comes dessert time, while Café Euro offers a complementary dish of gelato, you have to serve yourself out of a machine. Again, fine at lunch time; not so great at dinner.

Prices: Entrée prices ranged from $8.95 to $13.95 with an additional $1.99 for a house salad or $5.95 for a cup of soup. Dinner for two with a glass or two of beer or wine seems likely to run around $40.

Initial impressions: While there is no question that the food here is good, the portions are not large – and we question how many people are going to be excited about the fast casual approach at dinner time. We’ll check back in a few months.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at tina@verobeach32963.com.

The reviewer is a beachside resident who dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.

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