Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, November 28, 2002
So Happy Together

Grapevine is where collarsblue and white coexist —and share meals.


Cero’s Heros

104 Jenkins St (at Northwest Hwy), Grapevine. 817-488-8800. Mon-Sat 11am-3pm. Cash only.

British Emporium Tea Room and Café

140 N. Main St, Grapevine. 817-421-2311. Mon-Sat 9am-4pm. Breakfast served until 11am. AE, D, MC, V.

rapevine. Is it defined by its quaint Main Street or its behemoth Grapevine Mills mall? Is it construction workers lining up at Cero’s Heros for a “whole meal sandwich” or ladies having tea at the British Emporium Tea Room and Café? Grapevine is both — high tea and cash only.

Cero’s, which looks like a big ice cream stand, is a Grapevine institution. The building is a relic from the 1950s: a semi-circular walk-up or drive-in restaurant with no indoor seating. It looks like it hasn’t been updated (or cleaned) in at least 15 years. But it’s an institution, so it’s allowed to be quirky.

The British Emporium occupies a space in a faux-adobe shopping center — an example of the optimistic architecture of the early 1990s. The retail section of the business opened 11 years ago. The café and tea room opened in late summer.

But the food. The cold heros at Cero’s are almost perfect. Sixteen-inch rolls, packed with good-quality luncheon meats, make for a gut-busting culinary experience. True genius at the Emporium, though, is cream tea with a scone. And remember: It’s not what one puts in one’s tea that accounts for good taste here, but what one puts on a scone — namely, clotted cream — really good despite the name. My portion came in a tiny jar that looked as if it had escaped from the first-class food service cart of an airplane: an ounce of sweet, thick, heavy cream. The tea came with a skimpy selection of fresh fruit: three grapes (cut in half), a slice of kiwi, and a ring of orange. Sandwiches at Cero’s, on the other hand, come with a full serving of veggies in the form of shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion.

English frugality at the tea room was not confined to the fruit. Tea also came with lean little finger sandwiches, one with egg salad and one with cucumber.

For hot dishes, turn away from Cero’s and try the Emporium’s quiche. Yes, real men eat quiche and, after trying Emporium’s breakfast delicacy, they will crave it like dogs begging for bones. Tomato wedges, crumbled bacon bits, mushroom quarters, and sausage slices had been bound with beaten eggs and spices and then baked. It tasted like fluffy scrambled eggs encased in perfect pie crust.

The only hot offering at Cero’s is the uninspired meatball sandwich with provolone cheese. An untoasted roll was filled with meatballs the size of large kumquats. The balls had a smooth texture and were made with just the right ratio of filler to ground meat. Thick, robust sauce added a much-needed jolt of flavor. The sandwich was an absolutely average offering that would have been delicious if Cero’s had sprung for a better grade of cheese.

If you want real cheese, order a ploughman’s lunch from the Emporium. The dish is a simple, cold concoction made of two kinds of chutney plus pickled onion, three cheeses, a crisp salad, and crusty bread. On a recent visit, the ploughman’s included sharp Derby cheese, yellow double Gloucester, and a mild Caerphilly. It’s as good a lunch for 21st-century workers as it was for the men who tilled the fields of rural England some 200 years ago. The meal is also desk-friendly. It’s easy to nibble on, there’s nothing to spill, and the cheese warms to a mellow flavor at room temperature.

Anyone eating a Cero’s hero, on the other hand, should do so over a sink, not a desk. The sandwich drips like old plumbing and smells like onions and vinegar. Anything you touch after eating one of Cero’s specialties will also reek.

Yet even though it’s layered with contemptible cheese, Cero’s International was the best sub I’ve had in many years. A good sub is a complete cold meal in a roll. Cero’s hero was excellent because it’s difficult to flunk “Sandwich 101” when you begin with an inch-thick wad of cold cuts. The International had ham, turkey, hard salami, and summer sausage (which tastes like a beefy, less spicy or oily salami) in a chewy, fresh roll topped with the equivalent of a side salad and spicy dressing.

Beverage offerings at both establishments are limited. Soda at Cero’s, tea at the Emporium. Of course, the varieties of tea were as numerous as the fountain sodas as Cero’s, but, for the sake of all that is holy, don’t order coffee at the Emporium. I so hoped that Brits in Grapevine could do a thing unheard-of in England — serve a decent cup of brewed coffee. I was wrong. My South African joe with chicory tasted like strong instant coffee. Go with Lady Grey, a Twinings oriental tea blend with hints of orange and bergamot.

The establishments at the intersection of Main Street and Northwest Highway remind me of an American dogface and a Brit officer sharing a World War II foxhole: One’s low-rent and hearty, the other upper-crust but equally valuable. Both make sense. Go figure.

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