Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe

$$$$ ($14 and under)
Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe photo
James A. Parcell

Editorial Review

At Adega, Refined Casual Dining

By Eve Zibart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Jan. 4, 2008

At first sight: Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe resembles an upscale loft equipped for a cooking show. The front wall is unadorned glass, facing out over the artificial greenery of the downtown Silver Spring park known as "the Turf" (soon to be an ice-skating rink). To one side of the pale wood rectangle is a sitting area with armchairs, a wall of wine bins and another of beer. The grill and kitchen are at the rear, with chalkboards of specials overhead. Tables of assorted heights and sizes fill the rest of the space. Free wireless Internet sometimes puts pinot grigio in dangerous proximity to laptops. Music shuffles from jazz to Dido to the Cure to Eva Cassidy, all at comfortable levels.

On the menu: The atmosphere is so casual the menu almost seems made up on the spur of the moment, but Adega offers an inviting range of wine-friendly finger food, sandwiches and salads. Serving sizes and prices are pleasing. A cup of soup (tomato-basil is the regular; a frequent special is a tasty if not meaty lobster bisque) is a bowl's worth in most places. A near-perfect order of sweet potato fries ($3.49) is almost enough to make the cafe a destination, and the eggplant fries are almost as good, although a smattering of sea salt would serve them better than the packaged Parmesan. The flatbread pizzas (which start at $5.99 for a small) also are very good.

At your service: It's mostly self-serve (order at the counter and wait for your number to be called), but if it's not too busy staffers will deliver, and they are happy to discuss wine choices either by the glass or from the bins. Dishes and utensils are plastic, but the wineglasses are real and a nice size. Fresh condiments, however, would be a great improvement over the packages of salt and pepper, as the kitchen is overcautious with both (and with spreads).

On the table: The jerk chicken wrap with mango, avocado and roasted red peppers is quite tasty. The turkey Reuben should be renamed because it's too thin a panino for Reuben traditionalists, but its cranberry chutney and mild, wine-brined sauerkraut give it a pleasant kick. The Duke Ellington is a passable roast beef and brie sandwich that would get a better grade with more horseradish and caramelized onions. The veggie wrap and the portobello panini are fresh and filling.

What to avoid: The version of jambalaya pasta is over-salty, over-spiced and oily. The burgers are unpredictable (ordered rare and delivered thin and crunchy one night, ordered medium and delivered thick and red another) and bland. The pallid tomato slices should be dumped until they are in season.

Wet your whistle: Adega offers a dozen wines by the glass, including choices from Spain, Australia, France, Argentina, Italy and the United States. On Mondays, a half-dozen bottles are half-price with dinner, and on Saturday and Sunday evenings, $30 buys one appetizer, two entrees and a bottle from the specials list.