Remember when Ivy City was just a Scooby Doo warehouse and the One-Eight distillery? Well, I do because we walked there years ago when my friend was visiting from our native California and she almost melted down at a) having to walk any distance over 100 yards, and b) traipsing past a bunch of motels that are almost certainly the scene of several murders before finally arriving in a bizarro world of boarded up shopfronts and, magically, one distillery. This was back in the days when One-Eight didn’t even have a barrel-aged whiskey, just moonshine. It was truly the worst of times.
Anyway, Ivy City has many things now, including City Winery. Real estate must still be cheap because I’ve never seen a bigger interior space in the city. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger interior restaurant space period, short of, like, Dave and Busters. There was a line to go upstairs to a concert by some D-list one hit wonder of the 90’s, but the downstairs restaurant area was remarkably sparse. We talked to the “concierge” and told him we had a reservation. He immediately ran off to… do…something else? He was gone for a solid five minutes before he came back to seat us.
I ordered a glass of Syrah and my husband got the Cab Sav while we debated dinner choices. We decided to take it nice and slow and start with either a meat board or a cheese board. “Is there any way to do a board that is half meat and half cheese?” I asked. “We can do them together,” she said.
Here I’m going to take a moment to apologize for the shitty quality of photos that is about to follow. As will become all too apparent, City Winery maybe takes itself a little too seriously as a club and not so seriously as a restaurant.
The wine was alright. The Syrah was very tanniny and the Cabernet was a big lighter, so we ended up trading. I tried so hard to make my wine last given the price was pretty steep ($14/glass and they made it right there?!) I was done before our smorgasbord of meat and cheese even arrived because a small, distractable child must have been carving up the sausages with a Play-Doh knife. It’s the only explanation for how long it took to put together a cheese board in a restaurant that had 20 people in it.
Good thing we had entertainment from two fronts: the steady stream of lavishly-dressed wedding guests streaming to the bathroom from City Winery’s other side-hustle as an event venue and the engaged couple sitting to my left, who were set to be married there in a couple of weeks and were doing final tastings of their menu choices. It was also around this time that the concert started upstairs. The bass rattles the ceiling and causes a very unpleasant vibration in the ears of anyone dining downstairs.
Pictured here: three good but unknown cheeses, some solid giardiniera, a yummy cherry chutney, a dionysian quantity of grapes, a pepperoni and a salami that were both good but standard, a weird bologna-like meat substance that I didn’t care for, and an entire jar’s worth of whole-grain mustard. In case you were wondering, no, this was not a half-meat, half-cheese board. This was a board that included all meats and all cheeses, for which they charged us a whopping $30 with no forewarning.
Thankfully, we waited until the cheese and meat arrived to make any other decisions about entrees, and we decided against getting real food, instead opting to then share a side of brussels sprouts and some wings. We waited a while longer. I refused to get another glass of wine on principle.
The sprouts were okay. They were a little soggy but the salty-sweet combo of balsamic and feta was good. $12 good? No.
Just some wings, here. The meat inside was delicious but the fry outside was thick and overpowering. I know that the menu claims that they are dressed with garlic-honey hot sauce and not the standard vinegar-based wing sauce, so it’s unfair to compare. But they should really take the word “hot” out of the description.
Price: An absolutely exorbitant $50 per person.
Bottom line: PICK A LANE, CITY WINERY. This wine-making/restaurant/wedding/concert venue concept means that you’re half-assing all of those things. Please choose one and whole-ass it instead.