Off The Vine

There are kinks to iron out but the making of a one of a kind eatery is evident. We made the {smart} decision to make reservations at Off The Vine instead of leaving it up to chance. As we waited to be seated, a party of 5 walked in and was told it would be an hour before a table would be ready…the bar was already full and they deemed the wait too long. I remember a time in St. Louis where the idea of making reservations to eat dinner made you reconsider your restaurant choice. Times have changed.

We were seated in corner booth by the windows. It was a dark romantic little corner. Too bad we weren’t in the mood for a romantic dinner for 3. When asked if the light above our table could be turned on, we were told that the contractor forgot to wire that particular light and two more votive candles were brought over to help us read our menus. They have been open for over a week…the contractor should have been called back immediately to wire the fixture. So, with 4 votive candles we dug into the menu. Ordered a bottle of wine and started with the flatbread (it was highly recommended).

I do not claim to be a wine connoisseur. That is my husband. But, I do know that wine, whether red, white or pink, should be kept at a specific temperature. Our wine was warm. Not room temperature…warm. Then, it dawned on me that the wine rack was the southern wall of the kitchen. Not good. I asked for a chiller. It never came. Asked again and got a coolish stainless steel bucket. Again, new restaurant. I also remembered that they counted on Craig’s list for servers. It showed.

The flatbread arrived and it was wonderful. Creamy, sweet and salty goodness atop at rich crispy crust. BB did not steer us wrong with this one. It was wonderful. It was dark, so it was hard to see what was on top of the flatbread, but you could taste the salty ham, creamy blue cheese and apples. Eat this when you go….it’s a must. The only drawback with the flatbread was that our appetizer plates were filthy. I can understand one plate not making it out of the dishwasher spotless, but all 3. That is not acceptable to me. Off they went back to the kitchen. What you have to remember here is that my husband has not had good luck with Andy. He was not pleased with his meal at Harvest. Nor his one at Balaban’s. So, I was hoping to sway him with Off The Vine. Luckily the flatbread was amazing and it overshadowed the warm wine and dirty dishes.

Next was my Caesar and his shrimp and grits. Our guest opted to skip this course. The romaine was fresh and crispy. Too bad it was wet and all the dressing slipped to the bottom of the plate. I tried to use some of the very small rolls that were on our table to scoop some it up for a taste but was unable to rip a piece off the roll. It was like they popped them in the microwave too long and when we got them they were rock hard. The mustard butter was good. A great alternative to the overused garlic butter. The shrimp and grits were…well, shrimp and grits. The shellfish was overdone and the grits were bland.

My husband also ordered a bowl of the white bean soup. The server stated that the bowls had not been delivered yet and they only had cups of soup. Fine. The beans were cooked perfectly with just a bit of bite to them in the middle. But the base of the soup was very bland and required both salt and pepper to elevate the flavor.

This was not looking good. We have become pretty picky as to where we eat. Mostly we dine within a two block stretch of our home in Benton Park. We are spoiled. But, we also understand the most restaurants can’t live up to Gerard and Kevin…and we don’t expect that kind of amazing everytime we eat. But we do expect good food, clean dishes and knowledgeable servers.

I was hoping for magic with our main course….and we got it. It was amazing! You could tell that Andy definitely did our main courses b/c they were so completely different from the other two. I had the chicken with whipped potatoes and onion pan sauce. A frenched breast pan sautéed above a bed delicious mushroom and greens with a side of whipped potatoes. Our dinner guest had the pork medallions and my husband had the grouper. Our guest is fairly fickle when it comes to food and she loved her meal. The grouper was cooked perfectly. My hubbied gobbled it up readily.

A second bottle of wine was ordered and we requested that it was chilled prior to its arrival to the table. We were not in a a rush and could wait 20 minutes or so while they put a chill on the bottle.

It was put in the stainless steel bucket with the addition of ice and water. Not what I expected. Everytime we picked up the bottle to pour, water dripped everywhere. And as we sat and enjoyed our poured glasses and our conversation about who was going to be our next president and how were were planning on moving to the UK if our favorite didn’t succeed….the ice melted and water began to ease to the top of the bucket…dying to spill out over our table.

Service was not good. That was the biggest gripe we all had. He did not know the answer to some questions and instead of asking Andy, made stuff up. That is not up to par in my opinion. Servers can ruin a restaurant no matter how good the food is.

Needless to say, we will go back….in a couple months when they have had time to fix the lights, train their servers properly and buy some wine caves. Andy’s food is worth it.

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