May 14, 2011
Location: 616 Ward Parkway (Plaza)
Food: Pizza, Italian
Service: Traditional waitstaff
Atmosphere: Trendy, cheesy
Price: Apps $6-$10; Pizzas $13-$17, Entrees $12-$15
Rating: One Napkin
Every now and then a good night's sleep leads to a point of clarity upon awakening. After sleeping on my first trip to Coal Vines last night, I had one such moment waking up today. It was this simple assessment: Coal Vines is the type of restaurant that was clearly started by businessmen looking to make a buck.
Coal Vines has one of the safest menus I've come across in quite some time. It's a pizza joint, dressed up in man-7's and a hundred dollar shirt from Nordstrom. There's just nothing original going on here. Apps like bruschetta, mozzarella sticks and fried calamari. Six pizzas, a couple of them white. Entrees like salmon, roasted chicken and a few pastas. Two sandwiches, chicken parm and.. oh wait, the second one is also chicken parm, but with tomato, onion and arugula added called, get this, The Godfather.
Coal Vines was still packed when we arrived around 9:30. It was dark and warm inside with a lot of noise--clinking of glasses, banging in the kitchen and a loud hum of laughter and conversation; it was the type of greeting that makes one feel safe about his/her restaurant decision. It told the brain that it was in a successful, popular place where people want to be and are enjoying themselves.
After an initial glance at the menu, we decided to embrace the cliches and ordered up the mesclun salad, fried calamari and a pizza. Why not review the food that the majority of Coal Vines customers will also get?
I left Coal Vines happy enough about the food I ate (note, they serve brunch, too, which from the sounds of Charles Ferruzza's review is a poorly done attempt to carry over the business RE:verse used to bring it at that time of day), but without motivation to return. It's a perfectly enjoyable restaurant that will appease picky, unadventurous eaters (read: the lemmings who pile into chains all across the country), but that's not what I seek out with my dining dollars.
Still, its business savvy owners should feel satisfied; I'm sure it will make plenty of money.
Rating: one napkin