Monday Merriment

Case of the Mondays? Vino has the cure.

By Jan Walsh

I always have a case of the Mondays. Even as a young child, heading back to the classroom, after a weekend of free play with my friends and dogs, made me sad. Nowadays I “work” most weekends (dining out, reviewing restaurants). And this lends itself to working as little as possible on Monday.

What a treat to head over to Vino and Gallery Bar for Merry Monday! We arrive at 5:00 p.m. and the place is already very busy. Thankfully, Al Rabiee has our table reserved. He greets us and then treats us to two apps Stuffed Goat Cheese Artichoke Hearts and Spinach Artichoke + Taziki + Hummus Bowl. Thank you, Al!



Vino boasts $8 specials on martinis, wine, apps, and oysters. You can make a meal of these apps. And we do… First, we order two of the special martinis, Chilton County Strawberry Cupids and Orange Beach... Speaking of the Gulf Coast, Jimmy Buffett would not have to find a lost shaker of salt at Vino… Restaurant folks understand the etiquette of salt and pepper always staying together, as they are here. But during the pandemic many eateries took both away, leaving me to fill my purse with condiments. So, I appreciate not having to bring my own or having to request salt and pepper. The strawberry tini is made of muddled strawberries, house made sweet and sour, and Absolut. Balanced, not too sweet, it is the perfect sipper on this hot summer afternoon. And don’t let “orange” in the name of Orange Beach fool you, as it did me. I typically avoid orange juicy drinks, but this is not one. The orange martini is a Tito’s cranberry, grapefruit, and Prosecco creation, lively and vibrant, not pulpy.

The big bowl of dips is very sharable, if only Kev would! We dip crisp pita chips and crudites into the assortment of warm spinach artichoke dip, cool, creamy taziki and nutty, beany hummus. Served warm, the golden nuggets of goat cheese and artichoke are divine! One bite of these crusty, gooey cheesy, artichoke app, and it is a newfound favorite. Although they are not on the Merry Mondays menu, I am coming back for more of these. And I am not sharing.

From the Monday menu we order Toasted Ravioli, Tyropita, and Bang Bang Cauliflower, and order long time favorites, which are not on the Merry Monday menu of Fried Crab Claws and Potato Latkes. The raviolis are toasted, dusted with parmesan, and accompanied by a tangy marinara for dipping. The warm, flaky, Greek Tyropita triangles are made of buttery phyllo wrapped around a marvelous mix of Mascarpone and Feta. Highly recommended! Vino’s cauliflower is both sweet and sour, but not too bang spicy. Scallions add color and a peppery edge. Roasted sesame seeds add nuttiness. And the lovely sweet red chili sauce puts this dish over the top.



We had plans to finish with oysters, but at this point we have worked up a thirst. Thus, we order the final Merry Monday martini, from the Monday menu, Mango Madras. This mango martini is as lovely as the others, boasting layers of flavors, made of Absolut Vodka, Triple Sec muddled with mango, orange, and a cranberry juice. We pair it with our old pals of plump, succulent claws and crisp, comforting potatoes.

Vino is famous for its dessert menu. Yet tonight, we order two off the menu, desserts, Fruit Cobbler and Warm Lava Cake! Baked in its own ramekin, the cobbler’s generous crust is tasted throughout the cobbler, as it coats blackberries and strawberries with its golden goodness. And we top it with the accompanying ice cream, which melds it all together.

I have not had a warm lava cake in years. It brings back memories of Standard Bistro, where it was always worth the wait. The cake arrives dark and rich, topped with white chocolate glaze. On first cut its warm, chocolaty center gently oozes onto the plate melting the ice cream and enveloping the strawberry. Cold splits of Segura bubbles are delightful paired with warm desserts. So rare to find sparkling splits in restaurants that I had almost forgotten about them. Cheers to Mondays! Maybe I will take tomorrow off…





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