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Wine and Mac and Cheese

The many delights of Thirst and Vine

Jun. 8, 2010
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The entryway to Thirst and Vine feels very much like a wine shop, with many varieties to browse through. But walk just a few more steps and you will see that much more is happening. There is a granite-topped bar with beer taps. The back features a dining area with tables and booths. Near the window is a glass case filled with choice cheese. And a side dining area offers a sunny setting.

Thirst and Vine is the vision of John and Anne Nehring, whose other enterprises include Sendik’s in Shorewood and Groppi’s market in Bay View. Their other ventures help to explain the wine and cheese selection. The current spot occupies the location of the former Jean-Pierre, which the couple also owned.

The current wine list includes about 50 choices, with servings in 2-ounce ($3-$10) or 5-ounce glasses ($6-$20). Bottles are available at retail prices ($13.99-$49.99), with an additional corkage fee ($5-$10). In addition to wine, there is a small, select beer list. No wonder people enjoy spending time here.

Half of the menu is devoted to cheeses and charcuterie. The available cheeses are all described in detail. There are four different cheese plates, though you can also customize your own by request, perhaps by adding a bit of prosciutto or Marieke fenugreek Gouda. One plate, the Don Quixote ($16.95), is devoted to Spanish products such as tiny Arbequina olives and plump Marcona almonds. The cheeses include goat milk, manchego and mahon, a hard cheese in paper-thin slices that glisten with olive oil. In the center are slices of Serrano ham, Spain’s counterpart to France’s Bayonne and Italy’s prosciutto. In addition to grapes and sliced apples, a side plate offers assorted breads and crackers.

The rest of the menu tends to be lighter fare such as soups, salads, mac and cheese and panini. The menu, which is updated weekly, is available via their website (www.thirstandvine.com). Along with three different entrees each week, the soup changes daily. The soups ($3.50-$5.95) have always been excellent. One visit offered a fine Italian wedding soup—chicken broth with tiny meatballs and round pasta. Another day it was mashed chicken with fresh peas and pasta. These are vibrant springtime flavors.

In addition, there are three salads: a Cobb, an iceberg lettuce wedge and a weekly special. The wedge has Thousand Island dressing, plenty of blue cheese and bits of Nueske’s bacon. A decent roll accompanies the salad. This restaurant pays attention to good breads.

The mac and cheese comes in two versions. The basic ($6.95-$8.95) offers four cheeses, and the gourmet ($8.95-$10.95) is an even meatier version. At one visit the gourmet was a satisfying blend of cheddar, Parmesan, jack, provolone and Asiago with some pancetta thrown in.

The three entrees change quite a bit. Past options include short ribs and seared monkfish. Recently, the wine sausage kebabs ($14.95) consisted of small skewers with tomatoes, onions and three different sausages of duck, pheasant and venison served over sauerkraut and boiled red-skinned potatoes. The real star, though, was spring veggie gnocchi ($12.95). The light gnocchi, stuffed with spinach and ricotta, were almost feathery in texture. The veggies consisted of peas, carrots, corn kernels and asparagus. The gnocchi, served in a bowl with a vegetable, made for a superb vegetarian entrée.

Thirst and Vine is not a place for a rushed meal—the service has a Parisian pace where you will never feel rushed from a table. Sit back, relax and enjoy the charcuterie and wine.


Thirst and Vine

4330 N. Oakland Ave.

(414) 763-7340



Handicap Accessible

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays


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