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Village Tavern celebrates 32 years

by Kristi Maier

@triadfoodies

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. That is somewhat true of Village Tavern, which became a locally-owned institution here in the Triad years ago. Come to think of it, before there was just about anything to brag about when it came to affordable, local eats, there was Village Tavern. It was the place to eat in Winston-Salem and Greensboro back in the late 80s and 90s. It set the standard for great tavern food and great atmosphere, not to mention their inviting patios. Things seem to be humming along as beautifully as ever.

Honestly, I haven’t been to Village Tavern in a few years. Being a food writer, I’ve been really trying to visit places I’ve never been before and then there are a few that I do re-visit.

Little known fact, I worked as a server at Village Tavern/Reynolda when I was just starting out in the news reporting biz. The local TV station didn’t pay much, so that’s how I made ends meet. And believe me, it was just as popular then, as it is today.

By restaurant standards, Village Tavern has stood the test of time. The company opened in 1984 at Reynolda Village and was busting at the seams at its flagship so much that it added a second Winston-Salem location on Hanes Mall Boulevard. There’s also Greensboro, Charlotte (awesome rooftop bar), Atlanta, Birmingham, Boynton Beach, FL; Denver, Pembroke Pines, FL, Scottsdale, AZ, and a franchise in Manila, Philippines. That’s right—Village Tavern has gone global. Village Tavern remains a locally-owned independent company with Scott Richardson as CEO. The menus do change slightly from location to location. But even Manila’s location looks very recognizable. Daniel Glascoe, who’s the GM at the Hanes Mall location, says, “It depends on our kitchens’ capabilities and what’s available seasonally.”

One of the things you can have fun with at Village Tavern is to just “nosh” your way through the menu. The appetizers and salads are so easily shareable.

And on this visit, I wanted to take a few snaps of some of our tried and true favorites. To begin with, some of the appetizers just scream Village Tavern. One is the Hot Spinach Tortilla Dip, which is a warm, creamy dip chocked full of spinach, tomatoes and cheese with a full-on Tex Mex flavor. It is the number one thing I’ve ever ordered. It comes with a side of warm, soft flour tortilla wedges. Perfect for two to share. Get two orders if there are more at your table so you won’t be fighting over it. Another super popular app is the Creamy Crab Dip that’s served with these terrific toast points.

For salad, you can’t beat a Tavern House Salad. Hugely popular, you can order it as an entree salad with a protein as well. It’s topped with bacon, slivered red onions, mushrooms and bleu cheese and comes with a sweet and tangy Tavern Vinaigrette. It definitely hits the spot.

My husband saw that the menu was missing his maple pork chop that he loves from the HMB location so he opted for the Grilled Meatloaf. It’s topped with a mushroom gravy and served with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans. It’s reminiscent of Salisbury steak and is more savory than tomato-y. Really good and homey.

I decided to try one of their newer creations—the Pork Belly Tacos. It comes with two tacos and a side of the tavern black beans and rice. These are terrific. The pork belly is crispy on the outside with a sweet and spicy coating and it’s topped with crunchy cabbage and cilantro. It’s not a heavy dish at all and would even be a great appetizer to share. Kids have reasonable choices and my little ones enjoyed chicken tenders and mac & cheese. If they’re saving room, there’s a mini-sundae that’s a $1.75.

Corporate Executive Chef Mary Grace Viado hails from the Philippines and works out of the Birmingham location. Grace trains the store-level executive chefs. They are Scott Crater (Reynolda), Walter Bufford (Hanes Mall Blvd), and Aaron Dixon (Greensboro).

“Some of our chefs are formally trained and some are self-taught, but all pretty much work here from the ground up,” Glascoe said. “Many of us start as dishwashers and servers. I started as a server 18 years ago and worked my way to leading the kitchen as executive chef and then on to management.

“It’s really a company that puts our people first. We source fresh ingredients and we really put an effort and research into all our dishes.”

Glascoe says staying relevant is important for a business that’s been around as long as they have. “We are constantly evolving with trends and exciting new dishes like the Firecracker Shrimp Tacos and the Pork Belly Tacos and the Santa Fe Burger.” The ever-popular brunch now offers Chicken and Waffles. There are many gluten-free items as well. And the company is about to roll out an in-depth craft cocktail menu.

Despite staying on top of what’s “hot”, Glascoe assures us that there are items on the menu that won’t be going anywhere. They are what’s called the Classics: the spinach dip, crab dip, the famous onion rings, flatbreads, the Hemingway pasta dish that comes with either tilapia or grouper, Chicken Colorado and their crazy deliciously good Apple Cobbler. I don’t even like apple-y desserts, but this cobbler, with a vanilla wafer topping, caramel and served warm with ice cream, is sinful. These go-to items, and the service that they pride themselves on, are what Village Tavern staff believes their customers return for again and again.

Mr. Foodie said it very well after our meal.

“With big chain restaurants, you have predictability, which is nice, but not always the highest quality of food. But at Village Tavern, you get the predictability and the quality of food that you’d expect from a locally-owned restaurant.”

We think that sums up Village Tavern nicely and it’s good reason to pop in to see this old friend very soon. !

KRISTI MAIER is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.

WANNA go?

The Village Tavern has two locations in Winston- Salem: 221 Reynolda Village and 2000 Griffith Road and one in Greensboro at 1903 Westridge Road. Visit villagetavern.com for more information.

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