It’s sad times in East Dallas as another iconic establishment closed its doors in early October. The only solace I find is that we can’t blame developers or gentrification for this one. 

The Grape, our local gem of a restaurant, opened its door 47 years ago and closed them for the last time Oct. 10. That’s almost half a century of meals — an amazing feat in a city where dining establishments constantly rotate. 

During that time, The Grape changed ownership only once, in 2007, when Brian and Courtney Luscher purchased the restaurant from the original owners. It must have been a relatively seamless transition because from this diner’s perspective, it retained the same warm and intimate, yet fun, vibe it always had.

I heard the bad news Sept. 10 from one of my most reliable sources — my Facebook feed via the Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate. By the time I saw the story, it had been shared dozens of times, confirming that I was not the only one who was crushed. I read the article and chose a Facebook reaction I tend not to use — the sad teary face. When a friend texted me the link to the article, my reply was an emotional, “NOOO!!!!!” I needed to let the universe know just how heartbroken I was. 

I congratulate the Luschers for making the personal and difficult decision to close versus being forced to close down. Yet I’m having a hard time being positive, primarily because my connection to The Grape is long and strong, going back 20 years.

My boyfriend, now husband, John, and I were long-distance dating in 1999. Even though he lived in Addison, he would almost always bring me to Lower Greenville when I made my frequent trips from Chicago to see him. Our first Lower Greenville date was at Café Izmir, our second at Gloria’s and our third at The Grape.

In my former Chicago neighborhood, we walked pretty much everywhere because everything was close. It was impossible to find street parking, and the price for valet was outrageous.

That little pocket of Lower Greenville between Vickery and Goodwin reminded me of the sweet, intimate neighborhood restaurants I frequented in my hometown, and it was especially true of The Grape. I loved the food, I loved the service and I loved my dinner companion. And I started to love Dallas. 

Actually, that’s not true. It was that whole M Streets area that pulled me in. 

I was blown away that not only could people in this part of Dallas walk to awesome bars and restaurants, but street parking and valet were free. It truly blew my mind. Our first visit to The Grape certainly wasn’t our last. We frequented the place for date nights, family birthday celebrations and meetups with friends. 

John and I often debate where to go out to eat, tempted by new places in the Design District and Oak Cliff. I can’t even count how many times we’d look at each other and say, “Why would we leave our neighborhood when we have so many great choices right here?” The Grape was one of those places that kept us from leaving our ’hood.

A few years ago, a group of us Mockingbird Elementary moms decided to meet at The Grape for dinner for its “Best in Texas” hamburgers, which they only served on Monday evenings. Coincidentally, our waiter was a Mockingbird Elementary dad. That  fact — after several bottles of red wine — became a sign that our restaurant choice was a result of divine intervention.