The Wine Vault & Bistro has lots to offer
It's 3:30 p.m. on Friday and I see those three words in the subject line of an e-mail from a friend: "Wine Vault Friday?" Maybe it's because my work week is almost finished, or perhaps that last Diet Coke I drank is kicking in, but the tension I've been carrying around all day in my shoulders eases and I find myself doing a little jig on my way to the office copier. Even getting stuck in rush-hour traffic doesn't seem so bad because I know where I'm headed.
If I were better at keeping secrets, I probably wouldn't be writing about this place; it's already tough enough to score a table on Friday nights. But, honestly, some things are too good not to share.
Chris and Mary Gluck, owners of the Wine Vault & Bistro on India Street, have transformed the once drab and dark space above Saffron Chicken into a clean, airy modern dining room with a fireplace inside and fire pit on a outside candlelit patio.
So what makes it a weekly must-visit? The wine helps, of course: You can choose from the bottles on the shelves that line the room or ask your waiter to choose one for you-I usually just say how much I want to spend and ask what's good for that price. This past Friday, our adorable waiter, Josh, started us off with a bottle of his favorite wine, the Australian Kaesler Avignon, a lip-smacking fruit-and-spice bomb of a Rhone blend that paired perfectly with our juicy pork chops topped with apple chutney. And, if you happen to be hovering at the bar at the right time, Chris Gluck might let you sample one of his picks. If you're feeling indecisive, there are tasting flights and samplings of a couple different varietals to help narrow the field.
If you're in the mood for the harder stuff, the Wine Vault's single-malt scotch and small-batch bourbon collections can be pretty tempting. A good bet is Booker's Bourbon-the only uncut, unfiltered, straight-from-the-barrel, connoisseur's sipping bourbon currently available. Booker's is named after Jim Beam's grandson, Booker Noe, a master distiller emeritus, who hand selects each barrel (how's that for trivia?).
The food keeps me coming back, too. Wine Vault's menu goes beyond the standard wine-bar cheese plates and features a selection of well-priced and uniformly tasty dishes, ranging from small bites to heartier meats and pastas that are great for sharing. My friends and I usually start with a crisp panini sandwich made with spicy andouille sausage paired with peppers, onions and mozzarella. It's also hard to resist the piping-hot pommes frites (aka French fries), the world's greatest bar food. Our appetites whetted by wine, we'll move on to tender chicken picatta or the previously mentioned pan-seared pork chops with a sweetly spiced apple chutney accompaniment. And no meal is complete without the Wine Vault's sublime raspberry-liqueur-infused chocolate mousse. Its arrival at the table always elicits audible moans of pleasure from guys and girls alike. Most plates are priced under $10, making it easy and affordable to cobble together an ample spread.
What really makes the Wine Vault special, though-at least for me-are the people. The place is devoid of wine snobs, and the regular clientele and waitstaff are all kindred food-and-drink lovers, ready to share a wine tip or an "Oh my God, you have to taste this." It's a great place to chill with friends to catch up, check in and wind down.
The Wine Vault & Bistro is open from 6 to 11 p.m., and sometimes a little later, on Thursdays and Fridays, but check the online calendar before you go because days and hours can vary. On Saturdays the bistro offers special food-and-wine-pairing dinners that run $45-see their website for more information. Wines by the glass are $6 and up, and wine flights range from $12 to $16. Bistro menu dishes run from $2 to $12.
Wine Vault & Bistro
3731-A India St.