The Local Vine

So, The Local Vine opened up mere steps from our front door in Belltown, but we avoided it for months. Partially because we were annoyed by the way they cordoned off the public sidewalk. Partially for the crowds of annoying smokers that always surrounded it, taking up what was left of the sidewalk and partially because we were waiting for the crowds to die down a bit.

Imagine our surprise when we found the place mostly empty at 8:30 on a Saturday night, on a holiday weekend, with Bumbershoot happening a few blocks away.

Counting ourselves lucky, we found a spot amongst the a-bit-too-modern-for-comfort furniture and sat down. We had read some of the reviews, so we knew the back story. This place was founded by two recent Harvard MBA grads looking to create a chain of neighborhood wine bars. They wanted to get people excited about wine in the way that Starbucks got them excited (and knowledgeable) about coffee. They were even offering free wireless as an enticement to sit and relax in their space.

Over our stay there, we found some fatal flaws for their business plan. The dark, candle-lit atmosphere screams romance (especially with wine). The lack of sound baffling unfortunately made that quite impossible as more people entered and the noise level became uncomfortable quickly. Speaking of uncomfortable, the low, backless furniture that is the majority of the place’s seating options is not very comfortable and makes it extremely difficult to have a meal without either hunching over the low table or risking spilling food over yourself as you make the long journey from your place to your mouth. The menu doesn’t help as it features a number of dishes dripping with sauces or other things dangerous to clothing. Their business plan may say “come, relax”, but their business actually says “go away.” The atmosphere itself was all about Belltown-cool which I can appreciate, but I have to admit that I’ve gotten tired of having hipster 20-somethings slouching and talking on a cellphone through their entire meal in my eye-line.

As we were here to actually eat and not lounge around drinking wine alone, we were excited that The Local Vine had gotten the chef from Crush in charge of the menu. The food itself was pretty good. For the portions and atmosphere it did feel overpriced. Most of the menu consists of small dishes, each priced between $8-$15. It took about 6 of them to feed the two of us. I would consider that a reasonably priced meal for the quality in a restaurant, but in the Local Vine it didn’t seem right.

The service was quite good when we sat down, but went down-hill as the restaurant filled up. By the end of the meal we were spending a lot of time trying to flag down someone to get our bill. This especially seemed strange because the employee to customer ratio was really high, even when the place was crowded. I’m really not sure how it devolved that badly.

Overall, I liked it. There are some serious problems there to be sure. The only thing that would get me to come back would be the food and then only early in the day when it isn’t too crowded. And then only if I wanted a snack and not a full meal. As far as the Starbucks-as-wine-bar concept, I think these MBAs need to learn a few more lessons before they’ll be able to successfully export this idea to other less-hip neighborhoods in Seattle, let alone other cities.

Local Vine in Seattle

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3 Replies to “The Local Vine”

  1. u like this place, don’t like juanita, and kids playing in canlis. i wouldn’t expect to see casual folk or kids playing/crying at canlis either. however i really find this odd that you like the local vine and accept their menu. they literally have food because they have too have food. they buy it from the market, quality product but lack a real kitchen to cook. i love the local vine, but their food is a joke. sorry to hear your bad luck with cafe juanita and canlis. i would have shut the blinds at cafe juanita or got up and moved to a different table as i have done before, not that i have experienced a bad table at a place like cafe juanita, just recommending. and if i do have an even slightly bad night when spending money, i am compensated usually before i/we leave. you shouldn’t have a bad feeling when going to these places, i’m sure they would love to see you back someday, by this, i am saying you should have talked to someone when you where there, they would have made up for it, believe me, especially if you have been to cafe juanita before. by the way, your food description is very bad. maybe you just like going out to eat food, maybe you don’t know what your eating, how it was made, and why it is being served. the waiter you described is inexcusable and unbelievable in a place like canlis.

  2. Thanks for reading my posts!

    I don’t think I gave The Local Vine a ringing endorsement. Overall, we liked it. However, even though we lived mere steps away for almost a year, I think we only ate there two or three times, so it certainly wasn’t a favorite. I think I pointed out the reasons why.

    If there had been blinds I could have closed at Cafe Juanita, I certainly would have closed them, but we weren’t sitting next to the window, other people were. I don’t think that they would have appreciated it. You are right that we maybe should have insisted on another table, but the staff should also have been more accommodating when we first complained instead of insisting that were at the best table.

    One thing that you need to pay attention with in my reviews is that the more expensive a restaurant is, the more I expect from the experience there. Cafe Juanita would be an amazing restaurant if they were less expensive. If they are going to charge at the high end of the Seattle restaurant spectrum they had better match the food quality of the other restaurants in their class. We have eaten there a couple times and were never overly impressed with the quality of their food. Maybe we were there on off nights, but we paid the same amount as if we were there on a great night, so it is a failure of the restaurant.

    I don’t try to make objective comparisons between restaurants based solely on the food. I absolutely take the price of a meal and the ambiance into consideration. I wouldn’t compare the Local Vine and Canlis, nor would I compare it to Cafe Juanita. It doesn’t make any sense.

    “maybe you just like going out to eat food, maybe you don’t know what your eating, how it was made, and why it is being served.”

    This is a rude and ignorant statement and somewhat insulting. Assuming that I didn’t know what I was eating, how it was made, or why it was being served, what difference would that make? Do I need to spend a couple years at culinary school before I am allowed to enjoy a meal? That is a ridiculous comment.

    There are far better restaurants in the same price class as Cafe Juanita and Canlis. I think the only reason they exist is because of their location in Cafe Juanita’s case and their reputation in Canlis’ case. In both of my posts about those restaurants, I think I made myself clear on that.

  3. Speaking of TLV, there will be an interesting event there this Tues. evening 2/17 with Robert Camuto, author of “Corkscrewed” if anyone sees this and is interested. I read the book, and it offers a very personal and passionate portrayal of some eccentric French winemakers who are commited to creating unique wines (and food) without using mechanization, chemicals, or pesticides.

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