New Downtown eatery from the Portland’s brain trust scores points for comfort fare, adorable digs.
You have to love a restaurant that makes this declaration on its menu: “Food critics are welcome, but loyal customers are king.” No offense taken. Sometimes critics and loyal customers are one in the same, particularly when it’s a stone-cold charmer like Oven + Vine.
Opened in July by Michelle and Dylan Bethge, owners of the now-defunct Portland’s restaurant, Oven + Vine has “neighborhood hangout” written all over it. Modestly decorated with wooden tables and chairs, brick walls, a couple of TVs and a central fireplace, the restaurant sports a bar that opens up to a grassy area where patrons can play lawn games and kids can burn off energy. A beer garden is in the works.
The cozy eatery is a little hard to find, but well worth the hunt. Tucked away in the Willo Historic District in the same 1940s brick building that houses Shine Coffee, Oven + Vine serves namesake oven-baked fare, a good selection of draft beers and close to 20 wines by the glass.
Since the eatery hangs its hat on oven-baked dishes, I made a beeline for those selections. The flatbreads come in eight different combinations. The Bianca ($9) – a hearty blend of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil without sauce – is first-rate. The bread, made in-house, is similar to pizza crust, but feather-light and crisp in all the right places. Another good choice is the prosciutto pesto flatbread ($10.50), a tasty union of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and basil pesto sauce.
From the pasta offerings, I opted for the baked rigatoni ($8) – a robust combination of rigatoni smothered with house-made marinara, herbed ricotta cheese and mozzarella. Add locally made Schreiner’s sausage ($2) for a spicy edge.
Under the specialties heading, I tried the ancho chile beef short ribs ($14.50) braised and served off the bone. Tickled with smoked bacon and bound with New Mexico-style ancho chile sauce, the tender rib meat was succulent and flavorful. Also noteworthy: the green chile chicken ($11), a hefty helping of slow-roasted pulled chicken, shaved Parmesan and New Mexico-style green chile sauce. Jalapeños are optional.
The specialties come with a choice of roasted mixed vegetables, au gratin potatoes or roasted baby potatoes. Skip the lackluster vegetables and sink your fork into the au gratin potatoes – layers of thinly sliced potatoes laced with Fontina, Parmesan and Asiago cheeses blended with heavy cream.
If you just want to nibble, Oven + Vine offers a charcuterie plate with a choice of Italian cheeses and meats ($10 for three items; $12 for four) with the house bread and a ramekin of olives. You’ll also find salads (but they’re nothing to crow about), and a handful of sandwiches, including The Bacontarian ($9), served on house bread with layers of smoked bacon, organic greens and tomatoes slathered with jalapeño rémoulade.
With its community-driven ethos, friendly service and comfort food extraordinaire, Oven + Vine certainly makes kings of its customers – and the odd critic, too.
Oven + Vine
Contact: 14 W. Vernon Ave., Phoenix, 602-687-7632, ovenandvine.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Highlights: Ancho chile beef short ribs ($14.50); the Bianca flatbread ($9); baked rigatoni ($8); green chile chicken ($11)
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