Ocean Beach has never really been considered much of a culinary destination. While there are decent neighborhood spots, there's not much there worth going out of the way for. However, a new wine bar might change that.
The Vine, at the corner of Bacon Street and Niagara Avenue, offers a sophisticated menu to accompany an impressive wine and beer list. While The Vine is still a bit rough around the edges, it's a place with some real potential.
The first thing I noticed was the selection of beer displayed behind the counter. Numerous Belgian selections were on hand, like Gouden Carolus, Rochefort and Saison Dupont. The domestic micro selection was also large, with beers from AleSmith, Alpine, Avery, Bear Republic and Russian River.
Similarly impressive, the wine list features a number of food-friendly favorites, like Picpoul, a light French white; Albariño; and a number of French rosés. The Vine also offers sherries (both dry and sweet) and several vintage ports.
After perusing the intriguing menu, we opted for a cheese plate, a house salad for my date, a spinach salad for me and three savories-crab cakes, mushroom pâté and empanadas verde.
The cheese plate featured three imported cheeses, sliced baguette and water crackers. The cheeses were Roquefort; Boschetto, a medium-firm cheese spiked with black truffle; and Idiazabal, an intense, ripe, sheep's milk cheese. All three were perfect with my glass of Rochefort.
The salads were up next. The house salad consisted of fresh mixed greens (not generic salad mix, by the way) tossed in a toasted corn vinaigrette. The abundant grilled corn kernels added a nice flavor and texture. The spinach salad was even better, loaded with grilled asparagus, fresh-cooked bacon, caramelized walnuts, goat cheese and roasted garlic dressing. Rich, decadent and highly recommended.
The rest of the food was good, if not spectacular. The crab cakes were tasty but a bit bready. They were nicely spiced, and fairly crabby in flavor-a bit more meat in the mix would improve them a lot. The mushroom pâté was better-served cold with sliced pears and apples, this was a surprisingly light and pleasant snack. The intense mushroom flavor mingled surprisingly well with the fruit.
Best of the bunch were the empanadas-two massive baked turnovers made from achiote-seasoned dough wrapped around minced meat filling. They were well-spiced and flavorful but too rich for us to finish.
There are still a few kinks to work out, but the dishes overall were pretty good and the service friendly. The Vine is a welcome addition to the OB dining landscape.
The Vine is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Sunday, but the kitchen closes at 10 p.m. Prices are reasonable, with entrées topping out at around $10 and smaller plates going for around $7.