Michelle Fordice | Thursday, October 18, 2007
At Notre Dame, eating some place other than the dining hall is a novel idea. Though students get excited over Chipotle and Wendy’s, South Bend’s local establishments can offer a real treat. One example is The Vine, located at 103 W. Colfax Ave. in downtown South Bend. An Italian-American cuisine restaurant with a touch of eclectic flair, The Vine is a restaurant and bar that offers a diverse menu as well as an extensive wine list. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and offers salads, sandwiches, pasta, gourmet pizzas, and few meat and fish dishes. In general, the flavors in the dishes could be stronger and the dishes could take more chances, but the taste appeals to a wide range of people. The presentations of the dishes are simple, with just a touch of clean elegance. Portion sizes are excellent, with just enough food to satisfy. Entrée prices are between $9 and $22. Sandwich and salad prices are between $7 and $11. The Fra Diablo, penne pasta with cremini mushrooms tossed in a spicy, creamy tomato-vodka sauce, topped with asiagio and Parmesan cheeses and served with garlic bread, was tasty, but would have been better with more spice and warmer mushrooms. The sauce is very good, and adds something a little more unique to the menu. The Pasta a la “Bowtie,” is bowtie pasta in white wine sauce with sun-dried tomatoes. It is served with tomato basil chicken and asiagio. Parmesan cheeses and garlic bread. The dish is well-balanced, but not very special. Delicious and light, the Portabella Mushroom Sandwich, a portabella mushroom topped with olive oil, onion relish, and asaigio cheese on foccacia bread, is a little messy, but definitely worth it. It is a sandwich found on many menus, but The Vine gives it a special touch.The service at the restaurant is adequate and generally efficient, but a little unfriendly. Still, the servers did their job and the food came out promptly, so there is little to complain about. The Vine blends modern and rustic elements into a smooth and bright, if not memorable, dining room. Wine bottles line the walls. The popular restaurant gets noisy around peak hours, but this is understandable. The majority of the seating in the restaurant is standard, but several of the tables are a little different. A few back up to large picture windows, forcing some patrons to take a window seat instead of a chair. While at first glance this is suitable and even fun, it is ultimately uncomfortable and overly exposed. The air-conditioning vents directly above do not help. Located next door to the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend, The Vine is close to a lot of entertainment options, making it a good restaurant for a night out. There is also a second location in Elkhart. Even if it is not quite perfect, The Vine is a place to return to. While some of the dishes could be better, they were tasty and well priced. Keep The Vine in mind for the next time your parents are in for a football game.