2219 30th Street, South Park
Photographs deceive from the virtual walls of restaurant website image galleries, or the constructed space of press releases, providing would-be guests with a virtual tour of a restaurant’s interior. Enhanced colors create an extra lustrous elegance. Fisheye lenses make inside spaces look like the fantastic castles from The Hobbit. Devoid of humans, professional photos of dining rooms appear serene and beautiful. Nothing about them reflects the experience of sitting in the restaurant at the peak of service when the dining room teems with guests at their most raucous. Reality has a frustrating habit of defying PR campaigns, substituting its ugly self for primped and spit-shined visions.
Yet, for every sad rule, there are splendid exceptions. Witness the Rose Wine Pub (2219 30th Street, South Park), where reality trumps fantasy, and that’s in spite of languid website copy, like, “We spent time bringing in essence of the earth, because we firmly believe it nurtures the love we have inside of the Rose Wine Pub.” Most restaurants resort to such exuberant indulgences in self-description, but few actually meet the lofty expectations of their own language.
Rose Wine Pub’s small dining room delivers precisely what it promises. At its best, it’s bathed in a more subdued lighting than photography can properly capture. The eclectic blend of bar seats and quasi-patio furniture makes every seating relaxing and casual. A ridiculously low table, surrounded with chairs that might be chaise lounges on somebody’s lawn, would be laughable in most dining rooms, but at Rose it somehow works. Reclaimed wood--often used purely to appeal to 21st-century “green” aesthetics--highlights the building’s Craftsman roots without fetishizing them.
Simply put, it’s urbane and relaxing, without succumbing to a too-precious sense of over-design.
Or maybe it’s just that they “put a bird on it.”
“It,” in this case, being the menu, which features a little sparrow motif and a short selection of bar food that hasn’t changed much in the past few years. Staple wine bar items prevail, like some compelling flatbreads (squash and harissa looks particularly nice), or a bowl of chips smothered in buffalo wing sauce and blue cheese, an inexpensive signature dish.
Nothing exotic or terribly exciting marks the menu, but deft hands in the kitchen give dishes like “lamb pops” (i.e. petite Frenched lamb chops served with a medley of roasted vegetables) subtle appeal. In the lamb’s case, the delight is the gentle use of mint that offsets the earthy vegetables and meaty lamb chop.
A smartly curated, moderately affordable wine list suffers only from too-precious description. Wines themselves cannot be “adventurous,” having no means of adventuring. Other than that, the selection of by-the-glass delights offers plenty of above-average surprises, though the lovely dining room remains the biggest one.