After a week's worth of cooking I was ready for a night out so yesterday I spent part of the day researching online and using my iTouch's Urbanspoon app. to find somewhere new to go out for a bite. I stumbled across this little restaurant nestled amongst the cobblestone streets lined with rows of shops, restaurants, and bars that make up Main Street in St. Charles. The Vine looked like it had everything I was looking for: tasty menu, wine, and outdoor seating (remember how I said I love to be outside?). I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try.
We arrived just after 6 on a Friday expecting a big crowd but saw just two tables on the front patio taken and upon entering, just two taken on the inside as well. We were greeted by some very friendly members of the staff who informed us that there would be live music on the back patio in about an hour if we were interested in sitting out back. Wait? TWO patios?! This is my heaven. :) Not that either was very large but we chose to sit in the front this time to do a little people watching on Main Street. By the time we left, both patios were full, btw.
After being seated, we took a look at the wine list. It's not the longest wine list I've ever seen but it certainly had plenty to choose from. Tom decided to go with the Jed Steele's Shooting Star Zinfandel (a terrific choice, despite the name) and after much debate between a Cab and a Chard, the Tangley Oaks Chardonnay won its place in my glass. Wines by the bottle and wine flights were also available...I plan on sampling the flight of reds the next time we go!
The menu was small but had decent variety. Everything from pork chops to tuna steaks to pasta is available. Tom chose the Salmon Pecan with sundried tomato cous cous while I went with the Vegetable Risotto. The salmon was cooked to perfection with the pecan crust toasted beautifully and laid out on a bed of cous cous and asparagus. The shaved parmesan on the top of the vegetable risotto really "topped it off" nicely. It both looked and tasted amazing. I would definitely order either again though next time I think I have my eye on that tuna steak. I can't believe I almost forgot to mention the bread! While waiting for our dinners, our server, Bri, brought us the most amazing bread fresh out of the oven. It was covered in parmesan cheese (added after baking) and had pepper and parmesan dipping oil on the plate it came out on so some had already soaked into the bread. Wow...I'm gonna have to try this at home with the new Homemade Gourmet Garlic Parmesan Bread Dippin' Mix or the Italian Red Pepper Bread Dippin' Mix. (Yes, another shameless plug for my home business...you really do have to try these, though!)
Also while we waited, Tom and I discussed what makes a great restaurant. We decided it's a combination of 5 things: setting, ambiance, service, food, and drink. With these in mind, I thought I would set up a little ranking scale to use whenever I review a restaurant on here. I'm a big fan of likert scales so I think I'll use that. So, on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being unacceptable, 2 being poor, 3 being average, 4 being above average, and 5 being outstanding (maybe I'll come up with more clever descriptors in a later post...suggestions??) here's how I rate The Vine.
Setting: 4.5--Main Street St. Charles has a unique charm that I really love but there tends to be a fair amount of biker traffic, which can be a bit annoying when you're trying to enjoy a conversation. I think if we had sat on the back patio this wouldn't have been a problem.
Ambiance: 4--A very laid back atmosphere lends to the casual, yet still slightly upscale feel of this wine bar/bistro. (Tom said he would have ranked it a 4.5)
Service: 4.5--Everyone was extremely friendly and courteous. Our server checked back at the right time everytime and service was quick!
Food: 4--The only thing keeping the food from ranking higher was the prices. There were a few more reasonable items but most were $20+ which is typically a little bit more than I want to spend unless it's a special occasion.
Drink: 5--Not only was there good selection but the prices were actually good too for a wine bar. Glasses from $5.50-$8, flights around $14, plenty of bottles in the $20-$30 range...just the way I like it!
All in all, a great place for a romantic date or an evening out with good friends. Nothing like good company to add to good food and drink, I always say.
ANyone have any suggestions on where we should go next?