In recent months we’ve been impressed by the improvements at Wiki's Wine Dive & Grill.
The staff has been tinkering with the menu, trying to recapture some of the energy that kitchen had when it first opened back in 2013. Since the crowds, particularly in the bar, have never abandoned the place they’ve had the necessary customer support. But on visits both at happy hour and for a weekend dinner, we liked what we found on our plates. All the new choices are marked and there is an extensive list of vegan/vegetarian choices. It’s a trendy transition.
One important factor is the noise level. If conversation is important to you, head to the inviting outdoor patio (always cooled or heated as needed) or the small narrow dining room. If you like more noise, go sit in the bar where there are a lot of high-top tables and they’ve got a stage area (the old group dining room) that can be quite festive when live entertainment is there.
We first visited at happy hour when Jeff and Rachel were visiting from Arizona and they have a longtime fondness for Wiki's happy hour, possibly due to their trips to New Zealand and their love of the Kiwi vibe. Drinks are $2 off, and there is a “bar snacks” menu of 15 items priced from $4 to $10 that is appealingly diverse, ranging from the fried fresh green beans ($5) to the pulled pork sliders and carnitas tacos (both $6) that we’ve enjoyed in the past to fried plantains ($4.50) and Kobe sliders ($6). New to me were the hand-breaded chicken strips with fries ($6) so I got those and my famished companion picked the classic burger with fries ($7.95). That is pretty much a thick-patty gem that is a real meal, not just a snack, as were the chicken strips. My choice was more evidence of the impact of Raising Cane’s — upping everyone’s game, though I’d argue that restaurants are smart to avoid the product you can buy in any grocery store freezer in order to entice customers to come out for the food.
Our must-order at the Wiki's happy hour is always the garlic sourdough bread ($4.50), a loaf sliced into fingers with a delectable garlic butter mixture in the center that spreads the flavor. Jeff thought in this day and age the variety of craft beer ought to be more diverse, especially in a city with Bootleggers, Temblor and Lengthwise. There were six on draft including Bud Light, and six available in bottles. I think we’ve been spoiled.
Our dinner visit brought more food that was fresh, tasty and priced fairly. My companion selected the beef bourguignon ($20) with a house salad and I selected something off the “Other Great Stuff” list, the Catalina chicken ($14) with a cup of chili ($3.25) added on. Almost everything was great, starting with my companion’s salad that had house-made croutons, the most amazing red cherry tomatoes, bacon and crumbled hardboiled egg, but weak iceberg lettuce. There are a half-dozen dressings to choose from, made in house, and they’re really solid. The chili was amazing, with no beans and finely pulverized beef, perfect on a fall night, especially with the slices of house-made warm sourdough bread with butter that they brought to the table. The crowning touch was slivers of melting medium cheddar cheese and green onions garnishing it.
My companion’s beef is a French classic that Julia Child would’ve been proud to present to friends. The beef with red wine gravy featured two long, uncut baby carrots, pearl onions and fingerling potatoes. Like the chili, a perfect choice for the cooler weather we’ve been getting. My selection had a more summery feel to it, with a skinless, deboned grilled double chicken breast joined on a plate by spinach, red onions, beautiful red strawberries sliced thinly, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes and two dressings, a red wine vinaigrette and a cilantro cream.
We will be back to try the Parmesan crusted brisket sandwich ($13.95), the house-made meatloaf with au gratin potatoes ($18.25), the wild mushroom and peppers vegetarian quesadilla ($13.95) and the chile verde del mar ($28.95) made with shrimp, lobster and mussels.
There are some specials they run that are particularly appealing to us, such as the Wednesday date special: three-course dinner for two with a bottle of wine for $49.95. Tacos are discounted on Tuesdays with $5 Tito’s drinks, and on Saturday they offer a buy one dinner, get a similar or lower priced dinner free from 4 to 6 p.m. The wine by the glass list is strong in variety and quality.
Live music is available Thursday through Saturday and at brunch and we like the new space they’ve reserved for the performers. When we saw the great crooner Roger Martin there some years ago he was sandwiched into a small area near the bar. This is much better for the performers.
Service is polished and professional as you’d expect in an upscale but casual eatery like this.
Wiki's Wine Dive & Grill can be recommended for a fine dining experience.