Friday, February 26, 2010

West Vista Adventures- Part 1

Ever heard of the "West Vista?" Well, maybe you've never heard it called that, (I hadn't), but basically it's the area right over the Gervais St. bridge into West Columbia--and it is up-and-coming. I spent Thursday evening across the river and it was so much fun, I will definitely go back soon.

We started our evening at @116 Espresso and Wine Bar. I blogged about wanting to try this place a couple weeks ago, and I have been stalking their menu since then, waiting for the perfect night to try it out with our friends Matt and Rebecca. (Matt and Rebecca appreciate good food and drinks as much as James and I do, which is important when wanting to have a meal to be savored and enjoyed).

A brief description of the atmosphere and service: @116 is located on State Street, which is a cool strip of restaurants, bars, and a few interspersed shops. Just to give you an idea of the locales on State Street--it houses New Brookland Tavern, Cafe Strudel, State Street Pub, Good Times (more about that in a later post), Terra-(which I still need to try), and @116, plus some. @116 has a very comfortable, neighborhood hang-out feel, with local art on the walls, and mismatched tables and chairs. There is a small bar in the back of the restaurant. We chose the only 4-top table available at the front of the restaurant that gave us a nice view of the street. The server, Amanda, who was the only server for the whole restaurant, was very personable and knowledgeable about the menu. She freely gave recommendations and was perfectly attentive without being over-bearing. The bartender helped Amanda deliver food on a few occasions, and he was also very nice. Rebecca and I commented several times how much we liked the atmosphere--it is unlike any other restaurant I can think of in Columbia. It felt like we had just discovered a hidden gem--a place that is part dive, but also au courant.

And on to the food: @116's menu consists of a page of Tapas, a section of Sopas y Ensaladas, and Pizzas. There was also a hefty list of specials, listed on the board pictured below.

They had some wine specials, including a couple $4/glass and $18/bottle wines. We chose a bottle of Garnacha De Fuego, a light red wine, which Amanda accurately described as having a slight cherry finish. It was good.

Our group ordered a variety of items-here's a run-down and a brief note on each item:
Mediterranean Platter- they were out of Falafel for this plate, but the chef substituted a chick pea/red onion salad to take it's place and it was yummy. The Marinated Orzo Salad was my favorite item on the plate.

Mediterranean Platter- orzo salad, hummus, pita, reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes, olives, pickled veggies, and chick pea salad
{sorry for the horrible picture quality--still trying to figure out my new camera}
Hot Onion and Bleu Cheese Dip served with Toasted Baguette- ah-mazing. I could easily have eaten the whole thing by myself, (but trainer will be proud).

Onion Bleu Cheese dip--aka Heaven in a bowl--when we ran out of baguette, we ate it with a spoon
Smoked Tomato Bisque- really thick and rich; a little too smoky for my taste, but others at the table liked the smokiness. Also served with nice crusty, warm baguette.

2 pizzas- a Spanish Pie which was topped with goat cheese, bell pepper, spinach and Serrano ham, and the Chef's Pie with goat cheese, Serrano ham, pepperoni and extra garlic. The pizzas are just like I like them--made on crispy, thin flatbread crust and not over-powered by the sauce. (Simple, yet quality base ingredients allow for more sophisticated toppings to be showcased as they should).

Rebecca and I both got a special salad which
consisted of spinach with strawberries, walnuts, red onion, bleu cheese crumbles and a simple olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. Very fresh and classic.

Coffee Spiced Flank Steak- I didn't taste this one, but Matt said it was interesting, (not sure what he really thought of it, but he finished it all). I did taste the mashed potatoes that accompanied this dish and they were also interesting...there was an herb taste that we couldn't quite place. I guessed tarragon and James guessed thyme; Amanda asked the Chef for us and it was actually thyme, (1 point James).

Coffee-Spiced Flank Steak

Empanada of the Day- there were actually 2 to choose from, one with meat and the other vegetarian, (which I appreciated). James ordered the vegetable version and it was truly a Spanish empanada--the dough was fried crisp on the outside, but was pretty thick, and so good dipped in the minted sour cream dipping sauce. (Which tasted pretty close to a tzatziki sauce--a nice, fresh complement to the heavy empanada). It was accompanied by a few fried plantain nuggets. James was very impressed that he could see the authentic fork marks around the edges of the empanadas--truly homemade.

{again, horrible pic, sorry}
And finally, (told you we all like to eat!), I ordered another special, Spinach ravioli. It was a very hearty serving, and a pretty classic and delicious pasta dish.

It's not surprising that we didn't have room for dessert, and I regret I didn't even ask what they were. Next time.

Bottom line--awesome service and atmosphere; food that would bring me back even if I didn't already love everything else! And some cool "icing-on-the-cake" tidbits: my husband loved the music--he assumes it was satellite radio, but he said they played some Stevie Ray Vaughn and Deja Voodoo by Kenny Wayne Shepard. He was impressed. They also have a White Russian menu; very chic and different.
And, if you're a local artist, get in touch with them via their website; their recent ad in the Free Times says they're looking for new artists to display in the restaurant for Spring.

We'll be back soon! Thanks @116 for a great experience.

1 comment:

  1. Next time try the dessert, we have ordered a couple and they were both fabulous.