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The Village Door – Drink, Dance or Sit Down and Eat

By Bruce Collier
September 29, 2011 Issue

I usually do a little research on restaurants before visiting them, if only to check out their online menu. John Wehner’s Village Door at Baytowne has a Web site, but no menu I could find. I was not able to reconnoiter the restaurant before we ate there, so I didn’t know what to expect. The Village Door built its rep as a grownup place for live music, stand-up comedy and late night dancing, and I was not certain what the policy would be for children. The Tiny Diner is eight months old, and I can understand an establishment having to be restrictive about allowing little ones.

I needn’t have worried. Start to finish, the Village Door staff made the TD (and her parents) very welcome, and I think she enjoyed her brief experience with clubbing, though we left before any live bands appeared. She likes listening to music, and the house was playing a mix of recorded dance classics by Paula Abdul, Rick James, Michael Jackson and the like. In fact, it looked to be Family Night when we were there, with kids of all ages eating and even trying their skill as impromptu dancers.

Initially, we sat outside on the patio (close to the water) under an umbrella. It was a cloudy evening with a threat of heavy rain. Our server, Carlos, made us at home and promised that we had only to give him a nod if the drops started falling. They eventually did, and he and his fellow servers quickly and efficiently set us up inside. I don’t think I ever saw him—or any staffers—slow down the entire time we were there.

Village Door occupies several stories, with stairs and an elevator. The main floor downstairs has a full bar, tables, a dance floor and an elevated stage area for the band. Upstairs are restrooms, a smaller bar, and a balcony overlooking the downstairs. TVs are strategically placed, and I noticed they were variously tuned to sports, news, sitcoms, and even a symphony. Check out the décor for some slyly worded “ads” for beer, coffee, and other items posted on the walls.

Carlos brought us our drinks and told us about the fish of the day, offering detailed advice on what fish tastes best grilled, fried, or blackened. We ordered an appetizer and he left us to check over the rest of the menu.

Village Door’s menu lists appetizers, salads, baskets, pasta, sandwiches, entrees, desserts and specialty drinks. All the dishes are on the hearty side, and many bear music-themed names like Super Freak Steak Sandwich, Electric Sliders, Love Me Tender Chicken Fingers and Dock of the Bay Shrimp. We started with Guitar Strings—battered and deep-fried green beans to you—served with ranch and remoulade dipping sauces. They came out hot, crisp and loaded with guilt-free vegetable goodness. They make it easy being green.

Other starters are sesame and pepper-crusted tuna with wasabi vinaigrette, onion rings, steak quesadilla, fried pickles, popcorn shrimp, boneless buffalo wings, salsa and queso dip and bread sticks.

My wife and I both wanted fish, so she went for blackened grouper (her favorite) while I chose grilled snapper (my favorite). Other fish of the day were mahi and tuna. She got hers with broccoli and rice pilaf, and I got mine as a sandwich with roasted potatoes. Both were tender and juicy, nicely seasoned, with lemon and tartar sauce on the side. My roasted potatoes were a colorful mix of white, blue, and orange sweet potatoes, with herbs.

Other dinner choices are fried chicken, grouper, shrimp, popcorn shrimp and oyster baskets, shrimp and chicken pasta with alfredo or caper, tomato and white wine sauce, grilled grouper with crabmeat, grilled chicken breast, smothered chicken, seafood platter, ribeyes and sirloin. Sandwiches include a 10-ounce hamburger, fish, steak or burger sliders, and popcorn shrimp, chicken, fish or steak sandwiches.

There were three desserts: ice cream sundae—Copa Cabana tiramisu, and Bananas Foster ice cream cake. We got the latter to share. It came out a little hard-frozen, but it thawed quickly and we managed to demolish it. In case you didn’t know, Bananas Foster is bananas, caramel, cinnamon and nuts. What’s not to like?

The summer crowds may have gone back home, but Baytowne remains a fun and pleasant place to walk, browse and relax. Whether you want to bust a move or just relax with a drink and a bite, the Village Door is open for you.

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