Saturday, March 21, 2015

Restaurant Review: Vinsetta Garage

Honest Burgers, Dogs, and Extras

Good eats and a fun atmosphere

Last week I reviewed Fenton Fire Hall, another restaurant that is from the same group that also has the Union Woodshop, which is one of my favorite regular joints. I don't think I am exaggerating when I call it the "best BBQ in town" but that's just me. As you can see I did not feel quite as enthusiastic about the Fenton Fire Hall. I may have liked it more if I didn't have such high expectations. . . but with the drive factored in, and the cost, it just wasn't worth it.

Vinsetta Garage falls somewhere in the middle of these two in the pseudo spectrum I have in my mind. I have been to Vinsetta several times but have not reviewed it until now. On my first visit I really did like my burger but it was difficult as I continued to compare it to the Union. This is simply not the Union even if there is some crossover. Much like I described with Fenton, you will find some similar items but they won't be exactly the same. In the case of Vinsetta, there is the Vinsetta Sauce which is similar, but not exact, to the Memphis Mayo at Woodshop. It is a good sauce to dip your fries in (which are the same) but it's not as thick and the flavor is a little different. There is a Macon Bacon Burger at Vinsetta but it  doesn't feature a pork patty (Angus instead) and it's topped with bacon jam and pancetta with the maple bacon, rather than the spicy hot link at Union.

We revisited Vinsetta last night for a few reasons. First it was a very late start to our Friday night and Vinsetta is a much closer drive than the Union. The gamble of driving five minutes and encountering a long wait was much less risky at that time of night than driving 45 minutes to Clarkston to find out there was a two or three hour wait (which is really more than likely). Vinsetta is also open later, even if it is closer, with the kitchen closing at 11 versus 10. The second reason was chicken wings. We were celebrating my daughter's birthday and when asked where she would like to go she mentioned that she actually wanted to go back to the Fenton Fire Hall. Why? The chicken wings! She really did love the chicken wings there, which were smoked but also had a sauce actually cooked on them, rather than on the side. We knew that the Vinsetta wings would come naked, with sauce on the side, but they really area all smoked the Union Woodshop way. . . Third, I really wanted a burger. A good burger.

Over time, I have developed more of an affection for Vinsetta and will tell you it's quite good as long as you are not really looking for BBQ. If you want BBQ you are going to have to go to the Union. Now, hamburgers are offered in a few varieties here and they are really really good.Vinsetta has the cool decor that we do expect from each of these restaurants. This truly used to be a garage and many of the cooler remnants of those long ago days are present and celebrated. The original bay doors and the tracks are still there, along with a battery tester, cool old brick and actual receipts and work order for car repairs. The bathrooms sport a penny tiled floor with epoxy and there are all kinds of eye candy everywhere. I really like their lighting, with industrial fixtures and those vintage light bulbs.

Now I had to have a mandatory cocktail to start. I don't do it everywhere but this group of restaurants always has offerings that make me smile. The summer drink I prefer there was not features (cucumbers in a cocktail make me happy) but they had some new ones that also looked equally delicious. After a lot of debating with my self I settled for a (Bad) Chaperone. The description included ingredients such as "random red wine, Grand Marnier, Cognac, Cinnamon, Fresh Squeezed OJ, Fresh Pressed Lemon Juice, and Gosling's Ginger Beer Splash". I can't figure out how they create these concoctions but this one was delightful! It was warm and earthy and oh so good.

Of course, we ordered the chicken wings for an appetizer based on the premise that this was one of the major reasons we were at Vinsetta to begin with. The wings were very similar to the ones that are offered at Fenton but they are indeed naked, coming with a side of choula hot sauce, or a ghost pepper sauce for those that are braver. Our waiter also gave us a side of spicy blue cheese to try as well. These wings are good in terms of texture and smokiness but we did miss the Korean BBQ sauce that was cooked on to the ones at Fenton. We are not fans of hotsauce for the sake of it being hot. I like it in things for kick but not contributing to the entire flavor of the sauces so the choula didn't work for me. The blue cheese sauce was tasty and made the wings taste good in my opinion. My family disagreed and are holding out for the Fenton ones saying these are bland in comparison.

The appetizer called "Tikki Fries" instrigued me and we had to order those as well. Those hand cut fries are smothered in tender chicken with a tikki masala sauce, then topped with homemade paneer and chopped scallions. While this was an unusual pairing it was delicious. The Indian spices really shine with the potatoes and the sauce was really creamy and good. I did my best to find every chunk of paneer too. These were spicy but still had a lot of flavor without it being overpowering.

There are also some interesting takes on hot dogs that are worth trying. I am sad to report that my favorite hot dog offering is long gone and is no longer on the menu. Vinsetta, if you are listening PLEASE bring back the hot dog slathered with cream cheese and cherry preserves! Ok, back to the regular review. . . The hot dogs are Winters 901L brand which does not mean anything to me except that they are good so it is important to mention. I'm sure a Kowalski or Koegel would be just as good but if they are specifying a brand I figure it is worth noting. . .

One of my son's favorites are the Yeti Dog. Picture two of these hot dogs wrapped in bacon and then fried. I think the original dish offers pepper jack cheese and some vegetables such as chopped tomato and romaine but he customizes it. Instead he has them wrapped in cheddar and says "no veggies" please. The result is this dish right here, served on one of those metal trays with toasted hot dog buns that cradle these babies. There is a think layer of mayo underneath the dogs too. Fries can be an upgrade to this meal, instead of the homemade potato chips, with a side of the Vinsetta Sauce.

As I mentioned before there are many different burgers to choose from including a patty with duck as well as another one with lamb. I chose something a  little more traditional called the 3AM. It is supposed to come with Swiss, fried onion straws, maple bacon, a fried egg and siracha mayo. I customized as well, changing Swiss for American, and asking for Vinsetta Sauce instead of the Siracha. I switched out the fries (since we had the Tikki ones) for a side Caesar. The burger comes on a pretzel bun which is soft and a little more flavorful than a white bun. Super wicked good. That yolk streams out on the burger and it's a mess that you have to just love.

Did I mention desserts? We should have. After all it was a birthday. . . We chose three. Left to Right: First there was the fried apple pie that was a cross between a hot pocket and a pop tart, filled with fresh slices of apples and topped with a cinnamon sugar dusting, and bourbon sauce, along with pecans and some vanilla ice cream. Second, featured in the middle, was a pudding/whip with white chocolate and Jim Bean, with a bacon struesel. Last, a molten chocolate cake made to order with vanilla ice cream and crushed Captain Crunch. Really, all three were wonderful.

So the verdict. This is a damn good burger joint. If you want a burger and some fun extras this is the place to go. Dogs are pretty awesome too. This is a fun place and if you are willing to wait a little bit (or go shopping across the street to Trader Joe's while you are waiting) you are going to have a real treat. However, if I want BBQ I'm going to go the extra distance to Clarkston. If I want a real Macon Bacon I'm going to make that same trip.

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