Verde's menu offers a great piece of advice: “Life is short, enjoy good food!” It's too bad it misses the mark.
A recent visit to this Innsbrook-area bistro on a Friday night shows an eclectic space suffering from an identity crisis. Are we takeout or eat-in? Racks of wine and a refrigerator of drinks line the entrance wall. Glass cases filled with prepared foods line another, while a soda fountain with utensil caddy and napkin dispensers takes up the back. Several televisions play ESPN and CNN to waiting customers. Seating is varied — a few taller rounds with bar stools, some standard tables and a little lounge with couches and chairs. Bright green walls echo the name.
But that's the only nod to green in this emporium of plastic, except maybe the recycled-paper napkins and the motion-activated restroom lights. With a name like Verde, I expect a more eco-friendly venture. Instead we get plastic. And lots of it. I'm stunned when our server delivers an unwieldy stack of five takeout containers with our meals inside. I indicated that we were eating in, and he informed me that it's their standard practice to serve meals in to-go containers.
One of my favorite tapas items is almonds and olives. It's usually a foolproof order, but Verde's version does not impress. A plastic container serves as a briny swimming pool — a disservice to both flavors and a far cry from the warmed bowl of Marcona almonds that tapas virtuoso Mas serves 60 miles west in Charlottesville.
The soup of the day is gazpacho, a passable fresh mix of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion with a hint of lime. It's served in a glass coffee mug, to be used with a plastic spoon.
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Verde's menu boasts a nice variety of 10 salads at affordable prices, $4.99-$6.99. Susannah chooses the ensalada de pimiento. Wilted mixed greens are accompanied by two plastic ramekins — one with an Italian dressing, reminiscent of a popular bottled variety, and the other with red peppers so mushy that she insists on ice cream at another venue to erase the memory.
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The arugula and Tuscan white-bean salad is marginally better, although the greens have seen fresher days. Again, two ramekins contain the white beans and a better-than-average lemon-spiked dressing.
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Chicken and beef kebabs are cooked to an inch of death and drier than an Arizona summer, yet served cold on a napkin with no sauce or accompaniment. I use the chicken on the next day for a quesadilla for my kids' dinner.
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Susannah chooses an Italian panino from a half-dozen options. While the salami, capicola and pepperoni are adequate, the reheating process leaves the cheese unmelted and the sandwich unsatisfying. A subsequent visit finds the vegetable and Spanish panino equally mediocre. A few stray slices of onion and squash are the only vegetables and what's advertised as serrano ham seems more like a standard deli ham.
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The couscous salad is my favorite dish with a simple, slightly sweet dressing spiked with raisins and red onions. Verde's menu offers an expansive list of alternating side dishes, including some typical tapas such as tortilla de patata and tortilla de spinach as well as marinated mushrooms. This is one area of the menu I'd like to revisit.
Perhaps my expectations were too high or the presentation issues distracted me. In any case, Verde would benefit from re-examining its eat-in versus takeout model and pay attention to details that would enhance the experience. Meals can suffer in the transition from restaurant to home, but unfortunately customers who choose to dine in are confronted with the same issues. It wouldn't be hard to use plates and flatware and up the ante a bit. And there are lots of more eco-friendly to-go options. A stroll through Ellwood Thompson's or Whole Foods easily makes that point. Verde has some work to do to keep life from being too short. S
10325 W. Broad St.
Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.