UPDATE - Des Moines: The Scotch and Vine

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Scotch and Vine closed its doors on June 14, 2017.

Approaching its one-year anniversary, the Scotch and Vine has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the best dining spots in downtown Des Moines.

As proprietors Dave and Jill intended, it’s like no other restaurant in town. My wife and I have been to The Scotch and Vine numerous times since it opened in June 2011 and enjoy it more with each visit.

Whether you are or not, staff always greet their guests as though they were old friends whom they're welcoming back into their home. The interior is very comfortable, and the refined acoustics make it a great place to listen to the live jazz they feature on weekends.

At its soft opening a year ago, someone said that The Scotch and Vine already had the third-largest selection of scotches in Seattle. I can’t vouch for the ranking, but I can confirm the list is now even larger than it was that first day.

From basics like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich to the more uncommon, the scotch selection is striking! While my absolute all-time favorite is 16-year-old Lagavulin (which of course they have), I’ve also been impressed by many other offerings, including cask-strength Laphroaig (at 115.6 proof) and rare offerings from the Port Ellen distillery, which closed in 1983.

The wine selection is also impressive. Having grown from the original 70 varieties, S&V now boasts over 200 varieties including about 30 that are available by the glass. They also have more than a half-dozen local beers on tap, but none that you’ll find at other restaurants along Marine View Drive.

Good drinks, good food.

I’ve visited during a couple of happy hours (3:00 pm – 5:30 pm, Monday-Friday) and have thoroughly enjoyed the nibbles. During happy hour, The Scotch and Vine offers five appetizers ranging from $4 to $6, and offers 6 oz. pours of select wines for 50% off regular price. The nibbles, which come from the “Succulent Starters” section of the regular menu, include the a trio of roasted red pepper hummus, traditional hummus, and red onion confit (the Très Sheik); fingerling potato fries serves with inventive dipping sauces; The Napoleon (poached apples with Beecher’s “No Woman” cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and apple balsamic dressing – my personal favorite!); sirloin skewers; and grilled asparagus wrapped with prosciutto.

My wife and I have also enjoyed dinner several times, often opting for a variety of starters, as we did last night. Chef Adam's house-made mac 'n' cheese is ridiculously good, made with four cheeses including Beecher's Flagship. And if that wasn't decadent enough, diners can opt to add a variety of proteins, making it a full-fledged meal in itself instead of a side dish or appetizer.

In addition to the mac 'n' cheese, we had the S&V Platter -- essentially a charcuterie platter -- and the roasted beet and chevre salad. I started my evening with a flight of three scotches (half-sized pours of each, at appropriately reduced prices), then moved to an Italian white to accompany the food.

While things were quiet on the Wednesday evening preceding Mother's Day, the S&V offers Winemaker Tastings on Thursdays and other special offerings.

The menu is not huge but Chef Adam works to offer an excellent variety and updates it seasonally. Right now, offerings range from a 32-oz top sirloin to the "Hog Heaven" - a double-cut pork chop done in a Maker's Mark brine - to a variety of burgers that include an andouille beef burger, lamb, buffalo, and a vegetarian portobello burger.

Good atmosphere, good service.

The Scotch and Vine represents owners' Dave and Jill’s first foray into the restaurant industry, but less than a year on, they seem like naturals. They’re both outgoing and friendly, with a good sense of what “hospitality” is all about. They work the room constantly, often sitting for a few moments to talk with their guests about the scotch, the food, the wine, whatever.

Veterans of the industry, wine guru Chris and Chef Adam obviously share the same sense of hospitality, also talking with their guests and truly making them feel welcome.

Bartender Chris (who goes by Sims to avoid confusion with the aforementioned wine guru) clearly understands that bartending is more than pouring drinks; it’s really “people-tending,” and he does it very well. He quickly learns his patrons’ names and favorite selections, which makes walking up to the bar a bit like walking into “Cheers” must have been. Hosts Melissa and Skye are younger and newer to the industry but no less enthusiastic, and have grown increasingly polished over the last 12 months.

In my never-to-be-humble opinion, The Scotch and Vine is a welcome addition to the Des Moines area which I hope stays around for a long, long time.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to give it a try!

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photo by Carl Dombek
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