We loved it!
I usually work my way up to a dramatic reveal on how we like the new restaurants we visit, but this one impressed us from arrival to departure. I should immediately follow that declaration with a caveat that there’s a possibility not everyone will be as impressed with the Wine Gallery as we were. As I’m about to reveal, the Wine Gallery is the epitome of a niche venue.
The full name of the establishment—the Wine Gallery Wine Bar & Kitchen—says a lot. You’ll see every bit of that when you walk in the door. A square bar takes up the center of the room and is surrounded by several high two-tops and four-tops on two sides, a long group-table on one side, and a small wood-fired oven at the back. The room is not large, but everything is well-spaced and uncrowded. While the place fills up by 7:30-8ish at the latest, I doubt you’ll ever see a large noisy crowd standing around sipping wine while waiting for a seat. The Thursday night that we were there, it was clear that the bar has already developed a following of locals who make their way there from nearby neighborhoods for a glass of wine and a nosh at the end of the day.
We arrived shortly after the 5pm opening time and were greeted by the owner-bartender Chris Olsen, who invited us to choose any table we wanted. Within seconds of seating we were presented with two menus—one for wine by the glass, carafe, or bottle—and a food menu sporting a variety of Cheese, Salami, Bruschetta, Pizza, Small Plates (kinda like tapas but a bit more generous), Large Plates (limited but well-varied), and Dessert. We immediately went for the braised short-rib tacos and the mushroom risotto. Our friendly and efficient server Amanda suggested we give their pizza a try, so we rounded out our sampling with their classic wood-fired Margherita pizza. The food arrived quickly and was fresh and delish. The tacos were loaded with filling and filled with flavor. The pizza was perfectly fired by Chef Josh—crisp, lightly charred crust, a flavorful sauce, and just the right amount of cheese.
And, of course, we would expect a place called the Wine Gallery to have a great selection of wines—and they did not disappoint. My husband and I are by no means wine connoisseurs, but we do consider ourselves well-educated on the subject and our pallets are certainly experienced. We were impressed with the variety of both recognizable and unfamiliar offerings. I am a fan of what has become old-fashioned buttery Chardonnay, and Amanda recommended one that was right on the mark. My husband is a Pinot guy, and tried two, one of which--from Chris Olsen's own Mile 216 winery--well exceeded his expectations.
So why wouldn’t someone like the Wine Gallery. Well, it’s a wine bar, so obviously if you’re not into wine, this is not the bar for you. The wines are high-end and are priced accordingly. Our tab for the described food and four generous glasses of wine was a cool $100 before tip and well worth it in our opinion. The atmosphere is laid back and pleasant. And while I’m sure the patrons occasionally look up from their Cabernet to check out the basketball score, this is definitely not a sports bar. No burgers and fries here, though you can get frites with your sirloin. We liked the Wine Gallery’s classy style, superb friendly service, deliciously uncommon food, and great selection of wines. If that sounds like your style, we suggest you give it a first-try early in the evening on a weekday. And don’t worry about the constantly crammed street parking. All of the stalls in the parking structure on Pearl Street are available to Wine Gallery customers during regular evening hours. The Wine Gallery Wine Bar & Kitchen is located at 1833 South Coast Hwy #110 and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 11pm. The menus on their website are representative, but you'll notice most of the items I mentioned are not shown there. I have a feeling you’ll see something new and wonderful on the in-house menu every time you visit.