I never made it to local tapas hot spot "Gervais & Vine" back in its hey day in the late 90s for some reason. I was too busy enjoying the owner's other restaurants, "Mr. Friendly's New Southern Cafe" and "Solstice." After dining there last night, I definitely feel I missed out on something! First off, I am amazed that a tapas bar has worked in Columbia, South Carolina. The local fare here is dominated by sports bars featuring wings, burgers, fries and all manner of things the SYSCO truck can deliver. I can just hear the Joe Sixpack types decrying tapas cuisine as "tasting funny" or "not enough to fill me up" and wondering where all the TV screens are. I guess maybe it's not working as well as in the past because a quick Internet search revealed that Gervais and Vine is up for sale. The point is I think this place is good, but it was probably better a few years ago. The decor is a bit shopworn. The floor is greasy and needs to be cleaned. The tables are chipped, scratched and marred. The place needs a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint. Despite all this, the service was EXCELLENT. Much better than most places in Columbia. I really liked the team approach. Four different servers took our orders, brought us drinks and food and refilled our glasses. The manager stopped by twice to make sure we were happy. I like that. The food was very good. We ordered the cheese plate, which judging from the number of people around us, seems to be a favorite. The selection of unusual Spanish cheeses was sublime and we both really enjoyed the spiced almonds, which a server told us, are "roasted in duck fat, then rolled in spices." As Ina Garten would say, "now how bad could that be?" We also had the meatballs, and a plate of the scallops. Although the meatballs were well seasoned, flavorful, moist and tender, I was disappointed that there was not more of the spanish tomato sauce. Mind you, I hate things swimming in sauce, but these dry meatballs definitely needed something else. The scallops were obviously fresh, perfectly seared and served with an interesting trio of sauces. We also had the bruschetta, which featured fresh tomatos and basil all deliciously coated in olive oil and a healthy dash of balsamic vinegar. We did not try the desserts, but several tables around us did and they looked amazing. Gervais & Vine's wine list, as you would expect is extensive and the bar is also known for its inventive cocktails. You really can't go wrong here with anything, and it's a nice place to go for a light supper or to start an evening of dining in the capitol city. It's definitely NOT a place for small children. The bar is front and center in the main dining room and it was voted as Columbia's best place for a first date, with lots of cozy nooks and booths in an alternate seating area. Think "lounge" as well as "bar." There is a small outside seating area covered with a living canopy that looked pretty inviting. There is live entertainment on Wednesdays, which we definitely will have to try. I hope whomever buys it understands the tapas pastiche and doesn't bring in the flatscreens, SYSCO appetizers and light up beer signs. After all, Carolina Wings is just next door!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.