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Reds Wine Bar
updated: Jun 19, 2010, 9:45 AM
By Ms. Lemonjelly
Reds has been through some transformations, like much of the Funkzone. From coffee house to wine bar, now it's a full cocktail bar with a small kitchen for preparing food.
One thing hasn't changed over the years and that's the owner's openness to hosting fun and artistic events. That could be a Halloween party with wonderful costumes, dancers and interactive sculpture, a craft fair around Christmas time of locally made toys and pottery, or most recently playing an acquaintance's small film premiere for the cast and crew and their friends earlier this week.
I had an appointment elsewhere in the Funkzone that afternoon and rather than schlepp myself all the way back to Ellwood for the last half hour of the workday, I hunkered down at Reds with their free wifi and finished up my work there. Turns out they have happy hour from 3-7 pm during the weekdays, and the happy hour food menu is just $4 per item.
These weren't greasy salty snack foods designed to keep a patron parched and drinking. The menu is based on their standard menu of sandwiches, bruschetta, quiche, things you and a friend can dig into or dishes you can consume solo. I ordered a couple items for myself and a few others.
First up was the Mac and Cheese, made with Reds' tangy cheese sauce. The pasta was a large elbow macaroni, and held lots of the sauce, which really did have a pleasant chile zip to it. I am a fan of mac and cheese that has a little breadcrumb crunch on top, and these has a light sprinkle of them. It's a small portion, and the regular menu price is $5, so it's not a fabulous happy hour deal, but one of the most comforting.
The standard menu cheese plates differ by the number of cheeses you want on the plate, with correspondingly different prices. For happy hour, it is simply one cheese in the serving. It might sound like a small amount for $4, but the chunk of cheese is ample, and it comes served with apricot spread, fruit and toasted French bread like crostini. All plated nicely around artistic swirls of balsamic reduction. The cheese was manchego, a Spanish firm sheepsmilk cheese.
I consider everything on the happy hour menu to be a deal, but the chicken sandwiches might be the biggest bang for the buck on the menu. The $4 will get you two sliders of pulled chicken breast with Reds' BBQ sauce, served on toasted rolls with a pickle wedge on the side.
This dish surprised everyone, by being much more generous than expected. I even asked if I'd accidentally been served a double portion. No, it really is five slices of toasted French bread, each topped with sliced roma tomatoes and topped with melted mozzarella, julienned basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Like caprese crostini. This was great to share.
The final item was a tri-tip panino. I didn't actually order this, it was another patron's of Reds who was nice enough to let me get a photo of it. This sandwich was highly recommended by the bartender on duty, and while my particular group wasn't in a red meat mood, I thought it needed to be represented in this write-up, given its accolades. The bread looked like sourdough, and the tri-tip was smothered with a blue cheese horseradish sauce. Just typing up this description is making me salivate.
I would have loved to try every dish on their happy hour menu, there are about nine items available, but there were only three of us to share the food. And then, happy hour was over and loads of people arrived to watch the video premiere. Good times!
Reds Wine Bar
211 Helena Ave
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
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