Feb. 27, 2013 09:02

A return to 6th & Vine, still excellent



I’ve always liked 6th & Vine, the funky bistro in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem’s Arts District, going back to the days when we kept offices just around the corner and I was a frequent lunch patron.

But it struck me during a food tour of the area a few weeks ago that I had not been inside the place in years.

Years! In that time the 6th & Vine has undergone personnel changes, weathered a mild scandal, expanded its footprint to include an alley patio and solidified its role in downtown nightlife with dance parties, live music and an active bar scene.

And seeing as how I last wrote about the place around seven years ago, I figured a return visit was in order.

We arrived towards the tail end of lunch hour on a rainy Friday, the only customers in the place. “The weather,” the barman explained before leading us to a table in the corner. Normally an empty dining room at lunchtime is a bad sign, but I understand what cowards people can be in the face of a little freezing rain.

The lunch menu comes in two sheets, both secured to an oldschool clipboard. The first, more pedestrian part, focuses on soup, salads and sandwiches. Among the basic burgers and wraps, a few interesting items stand out, like the sweet-and-sour chicken, the pesto-shrimp pita and the beef and brie sandwich.

But we were interested in the other half of the menu — a short list of small plates and flatbread-type pizzas. It’s a tough call between chorizo nachos, a fried green tomato Napoleon, mussels, crab cakes and a fabulous antipasti-and-cheese platter. We went with a blackenedshrimp bruschetta, a baked brie and the flatbread of the day.

Bruschetta, when done well, is a fabulous dish of the most simple elements: crostini, fresh tomatoes and basil. The inclusion of blackened shrimp, boursin cheese and a drizzle of balsamic syrup made this an excellent example of the form. It should be ordered upon every visit, and the only constructive criticism I could offer is to perhaps create more types of bruschetta based on those fine primary ingredients.

The flatbread of the day consisted of fresh tomatoes, grilled chicken, bleu cheese and bacon piled atop thin and crusty Mediterranean bread, like a pizza but oh so much classier. This one was delicious but then, anytime you get bleu cheese and bacon together you’ve got a party.

I could be convinced to put the baked brie on my must-order list as well. True, I’ve never met a baked brie I didn’t like, but this version is an excellent one. The wedge of brie melts inside a thin flake of savory pastry. Accoutrements include crackers, green apples, sliced strawberries, walnuts and a couple of dipping sauces: raspberry and honey-garlic. Initially the honey-garlic intrigued me, but the raspberry was so much more complementary I quickly ignored it. The only thing I could add to this dish would be a better class of crackers — the Pepperidge Farm ones were perfectly serviceable, but surely a kitchen capable of creating a baked brie as fine as this can create something even better in-house.

The restaurant is open for dinner as well, with a selection of steaks, chops, seafood, poultry and a single pasta dish in addition to the small plates. There’s an impressive dessert menu as well, with the only chocolate fondue in the district. And in keeping with the place’s alter ego as a nightlife spot, a late-night menu boasts what may be the best bar food in downtown Winston-Salem.

Such a cool place. Such great food. Why on earth did it take me so long to come back?


6th & Vine; 209 W. 6th St., Winston-Salem; 336.725.5511; 6thandvine.com