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Restaurant Review: Vine Restaurant and Bar
Vine Restaurant Cover Photo

Restaurant Review: Vine Restaurant and Bar

Vine Restaurant and Bar

Authentic Wine Country Cuisine in San Clemente

Vine Restaurant Exterior

Vine Restaurant Exterior


I have eaten many meals at restaurants around the Napa wine country. I remember each of these meals like high school girlfriends, some good, some bad and some just crazy. Vine Restaurant and Bar, located in the heart of downtown San Clemente, taps into the heart of my favorite wine country meals. What was so special about Vine?  Lets discover together.


Vine Restaurant Owner Russel Bendel and Executive Chef and Partner Jared Cook

Vine Restaurant Owner Russel Bendel and Executive Chef and Partner Jared Cook


What I like most about Vine is that it features a seasonal chef centric menu that places an emphasis on their fresh ingredients. The result of this practice is innovative dishes with flavors that pop.

At the helm of the kitchen is Executive Chef and Partner, Jared Cook. He has worked in some of Orange County’s top restaurants, includingChat Noir, French 75 and most recently as the Executive Chef at Crowbar. Aside from Jared’s duties in the kitchen, he also maintains the restaurants tiered garden. The restaurant regularly turns up a bounty of herbs, vegetables and fruit that make their way onto the daily menu. 


Vine Restaurant Chef Centric Menu Featuring Restaurant Garden produce

Vine Restaurant Chef Centric Menu Featuring Restaurant Garden produce


I was invited to the restaurant for a preview of the menu, below are the items that I tried. If you visit Vine, let me know if your experience was the same as mine. Part of the service I provide my readers is to amplify your voice if your service was great or terrible.  

Charcuterie Platter

You can tell a lot about a Chef by how he constructs a charcuterie platter.  Executive Chef Partner Jared Cook included a nice selection of fresh artisan cured meats, domestic cheeses, house made pate, fruit and delicious breads. Perhaps my favorite part of the charcuterie platter was  the house made grain mustard that tasted good on everything.

Vine Restaurant Charcuterie

Vine Restaurant Charcuterie features house made grain mustard and pate


Love Potion #9 Cocktail

I enjoyed the charcuterie platter with a very refreshing cocktail called the Love Potion #9 made with vodka, orange liqueur, lemon, cucumber, and raspberry. It had a slightly sweet flavor from the raspberry with a cool finish from the cucumber.  


You could easily drink several of these cocktails and think you are in love with your tablemate, be sure to drink with someone attractive.

Vine Restaurant Love Potion #9 Cocktail

Vine Restaurant Love Potion #9 Cocktail


Flaming Buffalo Cocktail

This is a nice bourbon drink that has a slight sizzle from the Serrano chili and bright flavors form the fresh lemon juice. The egg white created a nice foamy head to the cocktail.

Vine Restaurant Flamming Buffalo Cocktail

Vine Restaurant Flamming Buffalo Cocktail


Pumpkin Ravioli

I love pumpkin ravioli, in fact it is one of my favorite items to order  when I see it on a menu. As a result, I am very picky. Vine’s version lives up to my pumpkin ravioli snobbery. Chef Jared Cook hand makes his ravioli. The cooked ravioli is hot tossed with white truffle, browned butter, crispy sage, pecorino cheese, and toasted pumpkin seeds.


Vine Restaurant Pumpkin Ravioli

Vine Restaurant Pumpkin Ravioli is musters to my high levels of expectations

Vine Restaurant Pumpkin Ravioli Close up

Vine Restaurant Pumpkin Ravioli close up


Crispy Duck Wings

My favorite dish are the crispy duck wings. The duck wing were given a quick deep fry to crisp the skin and then slightly leathered in a a Meyer lemon, honey and chili sauce. They were garnished with a sprinkling of chives. This was a remarkable dish with the rich and savory duck wing creating a full mouth umami that is broken up with sweet, tangy and spicy sauce. If you are like me you will find yourself liking your fingers. 


Vine Restaurant  Crispy Duck Wings

Vine Restaurant Crispy Duck Wings


Pork Schnitzel

I saw this dish on the menu, but decided to get something else and I immediately had a,”I should have gotten the schnitzel moment.” If you are not familiar with schnitzel, it is made with tenderized pork and coated with beaten eggs, flour and bread crumbs and then fried to a golden brown. Vine’s schnitzel is served with wild mushrooms, butternut spatzle, winter vegetables and grainy mustard-cider gravy.

Vine Restaurant Pork Schnitzel

Vine Restaurant Pork Schnitzel


Pan Roasted Loup De Mer

Loup De Mar is a Mediterranean Sea Bass with soft delicate flesh. The fish is filleted open and pan seared, skin-on, with pistachio butter .  The pan sear gives the fish a rich buttery flavor that accentuates the natural flavor of the fish. It is served with fingerling potatoes, Riesling soaked raisins, cauliflower, baby endive. I like the flavor of the fish alone, but they taste wonderful with the accompaniments.


Vine Restaurant Loup de mar

Vine Restaurant Loup  De Mar, is a Mediterranean Sea Bass with delicate flavors


Americano Kobe wine country burger

The Americano Kobe beef burger is tender and delicious, made with American Kobe beef. It is topped with caramelized shallots, melted mahon cheese, marinated tomato and pickled onions. The burger has a nice blend of flavor layers from savory, to sweet,  and acidic from the toppings. The buns are light and fluffy, although my only minor complaint is that the bread was a little too thick for my tastes. 

Vine Restaurant Kobe Burger

Vine Restaurant  Burger is made with American Kobe beef and topped with a mountain of flavor layers. 


On the side are hand-cut fries tossed in sage and  rosemary. When this dish came out hot, the herbal aromatics that waft up my nostrils  and left me  feeling like a Pavlov’s dog.


Vine Restaurant Fries

Vine Restaurant Fries are hand cut and tossed with garden fresh rosemary, sage and oregano


Chocolate Souffle

The souffle is made with artisan chocolate Scharffen berger and served with vanilla bean ice cream. I ate every last bite of this souffle and even managed to steal a couple bite’s of my Wife’s souffle.


Vine Restaurant Souffle

Vine Restaurant Souffle, creamy and moist. I am willing to blow my diet for this dessert.



My Final Thoughts

Vine Restaurant ExteriorBased on what I tasted and experienced at Vine, I was very impressed with their food and customer service. The owners and the restaurant partners, are all seasoned restaurant industry  professionals.  The owner, Russ Bendel, previous role was the operating partner at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Newport Beach.  I expect to see great things from Vine Restaurant, especially if they continue to allow Chef Jared Cook have free reign in the kitchen.

South Orange County is often viewed as having very limited food options. In my opinion, Vine is helping to put South Orange County on the map. Could we see Downtown San Clemente become a foodie destination in the next couple years?  With restaurants like Vine and the continued success of places like South of Nicks, this is very possible.



Dinner Hours

Tuesday-Friday 5:30-11:00pm
Saturday 5:00-11:00pm
Sunday – open at 5:00 pm

211 N. El Camino Real,
San Clemente, CA 92672

phone: 949-361-2079


 Vine Restaurant and Bar Prices:

  • Dinner Entrees:  Average in the mid $20’s range
  • Burgers and Sandwiches:  $ mid-teens
  • Appetizers and Bar Snacks:  $ mid-teens
  • Desserts: $8-10
  • Cocktails:  $10 Each


Read other Tom’s Foodie Blog Posts

Roy’s Restaurant

Newport Beach Restaurant Week

Recipe: Korea Asada

Phil’s BBQ

2014 Food Trends-  Restaurant Edition

Taco Maria
Vine on Urbanspoon

About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.


  1. The platters look really good! The food looks fresh and can go with almost any drink.

  2. All the food looks delicious! As do the drinks! If I ever visit that area, I will certainly go check them out!

  3. Coming from Wine Country I love looking upon restaurants like this now… to see if they can truly capture the essence of what is up here.

    First I love the name “Vine.” I’m also a fan of Pumpkin Ravioli… I’d say the only thing missing is seeing how well they stacked up on their wine selection. =)

    With a name like “Vine” I’d expect no less.

  4. Looks amazing. You always do such a great write up and pictures too!

  5. I would like to try this Pork Schnitzel dish! I will check out this restaurant when I get out there.

  6. I so hope I can get out there and try Vine and their pumpkin ravioli!

  7. I’m skipping the cocktails and getting right onto the food. Looks terrific!!

  8. You are making me so hungry with all those great looking pictures. That is awesome that they grow some of their own things.

  9. All the food and cocktails look yummy. Do they ever give out their secret ingredients?

  10. Oh my giddy aunt … what a yummy selection of food and cocktails!!! xxx

  11. I could use one of those cocktails right about now…and the hamburger looks so good!!

  12. Well said Tom
    I like drinks that make feel in love
    Too funny

  13. WOW TOM! This blog has my mouth watering! If I make it out to California I know what restaurant I would like to go too! The pumpkin raviolis look delicious!! You just made a pregnant crave everything at this place! Ill pass on the drinks for now, but ask me in 7 months and Ill take you up on that offer then! MMM MMM MMM GREAT BLOG! Was a pleasure to read, too bad I couldn’t sample!

  14. Went there last night after a long absence of visiting San Clemente restaurants. I live in South County, eat out often and generally struggle to find food prepared with real thought and planning. I had the schnitzel. It was outstanding and of course rare to find on a menu. The cured meat appetizer and the ahi were both very good. My date had one of the fish dishes. Both dishes were generous in portion and well prepared.

    I have been in the restaurant business and have been a “winer diner” for 40 years. I am also a great cook so food is real important to me. I don’t write reviews often, but this one is worth my time. These folks deserve the credit. Highly recommended. The ambiance and the service are also worth noting.

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