The big buzz about the old haunts at 7th and Chester is in recalling the hallowed days of the old DMZ. But for 18 years out of those past two decades since the locale shook with the sounds of punk and early alternative rock, the smell of dough and suds has permeated the music-soaked air.
Vino's isn't haute cuisine. There's no big claim to fame on its bill of fare, just hearty hand-slung pies and calzones, sandwiches and salads, semi-Italian pub fare to go with housemade brews and imported ales. But what more does one need to feed upon when escaping Suit-Land at lunch?
Orders are still taken at the counter, and pies are delivered to your table via comic cards (I was handed a Captain America with my iced tea to wait for my late afternoon lunch). Local art is loud and vibrant and for sale for a reasonable price. The walls and ceiling may bear marks of years past, but the restaurant itself is scrubbed.
You tend to overlook the bent fork with your lunch, the wobbly pie pan on which it's served, the overly loud alternative music that's not quite in the background. What you do savor is a significant amount of hot mozzarella and ricotta cheeses cased in a biscuit-dough calzone crust, packed with all manners of veggies (green peppers, black olives, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions) with that hot metal ramekin of basil-spiked pizza sauce on the side (Vegetable Calzone $7.31, calzones start at $6.12) in a 10" long crescent that's just a bit more than the average lunch-bound desk jockey can comfortably consume in one sitting.
Of course, there's plenty of suds... including a special Holiday Ale with spices served up warm this time of year. Vino's does have a really fine selection of housebrewed ales, porters, and stouts (I especially dig their stouts, when I am in a position to imbibe).
Of course, there will be a big crowd tonight for the big DMZ reunion... but long after former DMZ denizens have packed their trench coats and army jackets back into mothballs, you'll still be able to catch a mug and a Margherita pie at Vino's. Corner of 7th and Chester, (501) 375-8466 or check out the website. Open at some point every day of the week.