Recently, the three of us had plans to see a concert at U Street Music Hall, and I made reservations for a pre-show dinner at Vinoteca. My friends hadn't been before, and their only preference was a place with outdoor dining. Since we'd just been to Ulah together, this decision was easy for me.
Located next door to Solly's at the corner of 11th and U Streets NW, Vinoteca is definitely one of my favorite wine bars in the city and, according to DateMeDC, is a prime spot for first date drinks!
I've been several times, though never on a date, largely because it also has two of the best patios in town. That's right - TWO outdoor spaces.
There's the obvious spot, right in front of the restaurant. No one seemed to have a great photo of the patio with the current tables and chairs, but just picture a great dining space in the bottom left corner of the frame.
And then there's the less obvious spot, tucked away in the back - the Plaza.
Yes, that is a bocce court on the right side of the photo. Actually, a friend of mine from college is in a league that plays here, and I often cheer them on (as best one can - it's bocce after all). In the winter, they bring in several heaters (perhaps too many for my liking) to make this secret hideaway enjoyable year-round!
Fun story: in November, I had plans to watch my friend's bocce match and hopped on the Green Line to meet her. To pass the time en route, I flipped through my Twitter feed - duh. Guess what I saw? A tweet from @VinotecaDC saying that the first five people to show the bartender that tweet got a free glass of wine. Not half-price, not buy two get one free. FREE.
You can take the girl out of college but you can't take away her love of complimentary gift without purchase! No guarantees that they'll repeat this, but it shows that it's never a bad idea to check your destination's social media sites before visiting!
Okay, back to dinner with my adopted family...
Since it was not yet oppressively hot, I elected to walk to the restaurant from Georgetown and arrived a few minutes before our 7pm reservation. This was fortuitous, as their Happy Hour runs EVERYDAY from 5:00 - 7:00pm ... so I treated myself to a glass of Viognier while I waited. See what being early gets you?!
A few minutes later, my friends arrived, we were seated on the front patio, and one of the most delightful servers I've ever had greeted us. She asked the usual "Have you been here before?" type questions and then asked, "Do you have tickets to a show that I should know about in order to time your dinner? What time do you want to be able to walk out of here?" So considerate and not something I necessarily expected out of this casual bistro. And, yes, she did get us out right at the exact time we noted!
The ladies had identical meals and went all out (the gentleman wasn't that hungry and isn't worth mentioning here). We both ordered a Barely Buzzed cheese starter, marinated olives, a fennel and pea shoot salad, fried risotto balls, and dessert - tres leches for me (because it comes with Guinness ice cream, but it was too much for me to finish) and the chocolate flight for her.
Delicious! I really enjoyed the light flavors of our meal, especially since we were going to go dance around to one of our favorite bands.
I was also very pleased with the service. Our water glasses were never empty (this is a big deal for me), our waitress was pleasant and professional but also super quirky and entertaining, and the courses/ hodgepodge of small plates were timed really well.
It wasn't free this time, but I'd consider it a very reasonably priced meal. My share was less than $40 (including a second glass of wine, naturally), and I was more than content.
Whether it be for bocce matches, first date drinks, or dinner with your fake brother, I'd say Vinoteca fits the bill.