Twisted Grape Café & Wine Bar sits in a small shopping center on a busy stretch of Eglin Pkwy. Outside, it’s clean and rather spare in appearance. Inside is a welcome contrast. It was a chill and drizzly day. I had to eat solo because lunch was my only option, and my wife and daughter (the Tiny Diner) were not available. Lucky for me, the menu is pretty much the same all day, except for a few evening-only entrees. The weather could have made for a dreary meal, minus my wife and TD, but I was reassured when I stepped into the restaurant.
My first thought was that it looked like a tea salon. There are tables and chairs of all kinds, mixed and matched, cushioned loveseats and a comfy-looking armchair. The aquamarine walls are decorated with framed photos and prints, and there are sturdy cabinets and shelves. A bar runs along part of the left side of the dining area. It’s all warm and inviting. One of the staff invited me to sit wherever I liked, gave me a menu and left me to study. It was late in the lunch hour, but there were still a few lingering diners. A larger group (an arts board meeting) dropped in and were made comfortable at a long table.
As the name indicates, Twisted Grape pairs food with wine (and beer). There are meat and cheese plates, salads, small plates, panini, and flatbreads, many inspired by the Italian or Mediterranean kitchen. Charcuterie, cheese, bread and fruit feature prominently, robust flavors and contrasting textures designed to accompany all that fermented juice. Since I was driving, I had to forego anything stronger than tea, but even if you aren’t indulging, you can still enjoy your meal.
I started with an appetizer I had never tried before, a small plate of bacon jam with crackers. I’m not sure what goes into bacon jam (aside from bacon), but the warm, coarse-grained spread (or dip, if you prefer) manages to be salty, savory, sweet and tart all at once, a meat course with its own sauce.
Other small plates and starters include pimento cheese, shrimp and crab parmesan dip, bruschetta, and bread with seasoned olive oil. There’s a customizable meat and cheese plate - prosciutto, pepperoni, soppressata, Black Forest ham, Genoa salami, chorizo, mozzarella, smoked gouda, cheddar, Manchego, goat cheese and Brie, in any combination you desire. There are mixed green or tomato salads with cheese and/or meats, chicken salad, and a daily soup.
For my main course I chose something to dine in, and something to go for my wife. I ordered myself an Italian Stallion panini, which comes with a side salad. To go, I got a flatbread— Goats in Pajamas.
My panini showed up on time. The Stallion features soppressata, Genoa salami, ham, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, served hot and melted. It packs a substantial, meaty punch (like its namesake), and the blue cheese adds a nice salty bite. The salad, with vinaigrette, was dressed with shavings of parmesan.
Other panini include apple, Brie and ham, caprese with tomato and basil, a bacon jam BLT, and chicken salad, all with salads on the side.
Goats in Pajamas conjures up any number of images, but I was happy with what I saw and sampled it with my wife later in the day. The flatbread is covered with bacon, goat cheese, fig marmalade, and mixed greens, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. A little time in the oven pulls it all together— creamy, crunchy, sweet and tart, part sandwich, part pizza.
Other flatbread options are Farmers Table (bacon and goat cheese), Twisted Grape (Manchego cheese), margherita (tomato, basil and mozzarella), pepperoni, four cheese, Twisted Pig (ham, gouda, mustard), and bratwurst (with sauerkraut). If you’re headed back to the fields after lunch, there’s a Ploughman’s Platter with apple and orange slices, cheddar, ham, bread, bacon jam, fig preserves, pickles and mustard. After 5 p.m. is a “Zingouda” burger, lasagna and a nightly special.
The menu lists four desserts—goat cheese and local honey rolled in pecans, chocolate truffles, cheesecake and Moroccan cinnamon orange wheels. I got the latter to go. Basically, it’s sliced oranges dusted with cinnamon—tasty, although I guess I was expecting some kind of pastry.
Twisted Grape offers a list of wines to pair with food, wine-themed gifts, live music on weekends, and a calendar of events on its website. You needn’t wait for a rainy day.
TWISTED GRAPE CAFÉ & WINE BAR
1193B Eglin Parkway
Hours: Open Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat., 5-10 p.m.
Children’s Menu: Can accommodate.
Come into the Twisted Grape for a warm and cozy sit-down with your favorite wine or beer, paired with a vino-friendly menu. Choose from salads, meat and cheese plates, small plates, panini and flatbreads. Eat light or go robust with the Italian Stallion panini, lasagna or a Ploughman’s Platter. Live music on weekends, special events. Wine and beer. $5-15.