Vin 909 (1 of 50)

Since taking on my personal challenge to go to Baltimore Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants, I have been trying to get my friends to go to one of the restaurants with me and help me with the process.  Finally, my friend and I agreed to meet in Annapolis and go to one of the two on the list.  We initially planned to go to Preserve but they were closed for a private event so we settled on Vin 909 Winecafe located at 909 Bay Ridge Avenue Annapolis, MD 21403.  It should be noted that neither of these restaurants take reservations so we planned to meet at 5pm when they opened for dinner. Vin 909’s claim to fame is fresh farm-to-table ingredients and rustic crispy crust pizzas.

I arrived at the restaurant at roughly 5:03pm.  Here I am thinking that I’m doing something and there is a line already down the sidewalk.  The restaurant is not located on a busy street and looks like a house so if you don’t know what you are looking for, you would definitely miss it. Because I was early, I was able to park in the gravel parking lot and hurried to get in line to hopefully get a table at the first seating.  Unfortunately, by the time the line got to me, I had to wait 45 minutes to an hour.  There were a lot of benches outside and it was a beautiful April evening so I decided to take a seat outside on one of the many benches.  One cool thing about the restaurant was that while you wait outside, you can enjoy a glass of wine and a few starters on the menu.  Several groups took advantage of this and enjoyed cheese and meat trays on the grass with wine.  It give the restaurant a cool festival feel.  If they had a jazz band, it probably would be been even cooler. But again, we were in a quiet neighborhood so that probably wouldn’t go over to well with neighbors.

The restaurant is on the smaller-medium size and they utilize every area of the restaurant to fit as many people as possible, which I can appreciate. My friend had not arrived yet so it was no big deal, I could wait outside for her. She got lost and drove right past the restaurant and had to circle the block to find the location.  By the time she got there, most of the street parking was taken and the small parking lot of about 10 cars was full so she ended up parking in a nearby shopping center parking lot. Parking is scarce but given the area, there isn’t much to be done.

About 40 minutes into the wait, the hostess comes up to us to confirm the number in the party.  This had already been asked at check-in and she took my cellphone number down which was a little troublesome to me as I watched her reconfirm party sizes with other waiting guest.  I kept my phone out in anticipation for a call but once our table became available, she came out and got us. The hostess was sweet given the high demand of the restaurant. We sat out in the patio area which was covered and had a heater for chillier evenings but it was a nice evening so it was not turned on.  We noticed that most of the tables for 2 were bar tables, which are not partially my favorite because is uncomfortable.  But we took what was given and made the best of it because it was a little after 6pm and I was not waiting for another table!

While walking to the table, the restaurant was bustling with people sitting at bars, tables, or bars overlooking the kitchen. A couple had found two high chairs in a walkway and had a glass a wine and a appetizer and gotten started there.  Not sure if they planned on finishing their meal their but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I suppose that this is the place to be for the quiet neighborhood in Annapolis. The restaurant looks very well kept and the tables were clean. When we arrived to our table, it was clean and ready to go. I took a visit to the restroom which was also well kept and had one room gender restrooms.  No stalls. Nice for privacy.

vin salad
Baby Argula and Prosciutto Salad

I ordered a glass of Rosé ($6), based on a recommendation from the waitress, that it was sweet and had a slight sparkle.  They had several wine options considering they area Winecafe with both domestic and international options available. My friend ordered a glass of white wine ($8) and she too was satisfied with her selection.  We started with the Baby Arugula and Prosciutto salad ($11).  The menu said it included barrel aged feta cheese, crispy prosciutto, roasted garlic croutons, and white balsamic vinaigrette.  We shared the salad because it was a pretty large plate. I was quite underwhelmed with the salad. The arugula was fresh and appeared to be dressed but the white balsamic vinaigrette wasn’t very prevalent in the dish.  The salad dressing needed a more acidic flavor and maybe some fresh ground black pepper would have helped. I was also disappointed that the prosciutto wasn’t crispy and were the long strips that were tough to cut. And it wasn’t a lot of it on the plate.  The croutons and the feta cheese were the highlight of the salad.  But I can be easily impressed with feta cheese so I’m not sure if that’s saying much of anything.

 

Before we were seated, I was set on the Cast Iron Skirt Steak and a vegetable side of wilted spinach garlic cream but once seated, all I could smell was the Eastport Style Pizzas and I cannot resist a good pizza.  They were having a special on a white pizza with a garlic sauce that sounded divine but did not have a meat topping and I did not know what would be a suitable addition so I decided to select something on menu.

vin bbq pizza
Baby Argula and Prosciutto Salad

I had been craving the Sweet Baby-Q Chicken pizza from Ledo Pizza that had chicken, bacon, and BBQ sauce so when I saw a similar combination on the menu called The Cowboy ($16), I was instantly drawn to it.   The Cowboy includes the House BBQ sauce, smoked chicken, applewood smoked bacon, house mozzarella, provolone, pickled Serrano peppers, and onions.  It was a decent size pizza and mine came out first. It had all the workings of an amazing pizza but it just didn’t do it for me. Perhaps it was my mistake to order BBQ from a borderline Italian restaurant but the BBQ sauce was quite watery.  But this pizza was just ok at best. The toppings were not equally distributed and some slices didn’t have any cheese and maybe a drizzle of the sauce. It felt like the pizza could have cooked a little longer but the ends were cracker crisp but the middle was soggy. I’m not chef so I have no recommendation on how to fix that. Usually, I love the insides slices but I was not too excited.

vin spotted pigMy friend order The Spotted Pig pizza ($16) which included Alps spicy soppressata, wild boar meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, and provolone. She enjoyed her pizza and I had a slice but I felt that the meatballs tasted like it had been frozen.  I have the weird thing were I get really turned off when I can taste the freezer. And I’ve had pretty awesome sausage and this just wasn’t one of them. Overall, I felt that the flavors of her pizza were better than mine but I still wasn’t overly impressed.

We decided not to get a dessert because nothing on the menu was really all that exciting to us. There was a bread pudding but it had coconuts which neither me or my friend are a fan of. There was a butterscotch pudding and some gelato options but they were not exciting enough to purchase. So we ended our meals with the pizzas.  We spent of total of $60.84, so roughly $30.42 before gratuity, which is fair for what we got. I left having enjoyed my experience and been a part of the foodie and wine movement that people were so eagerly flocking to.  However, coming from Baltimore, I’m not sure if I would go out of my way to visit there again and have to wait such a longer period of time for a table. My friend and I both agreed that if we were in the area, which would be extremely rare, maybe we would go again. Below is Seven Mac Score:

Vin 909

Criteria Scale Score
Accessibility 1-10 7
Customer Service 1-20 16
Cleanliness 1-10 10
Food Presentation 1-10 9
Price Value 1-10 7
Taste of Food 1-30 20
Overall Experience 1-10 9
TOTAL: 78/100

My friend gave it an 82.5 ranking higher in value and taste. I think I expected to be wowed a lot more to be Baltimore’s Best. Please look out for my next post on another Baltimore’s Best.  Hopefully it scores higher because we are not off to a great start. 46 more to go. And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!

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