One of us and his spouse checked out one of the new "hot" places on the Dallas scene recently. Coal Vines was pretty crowded even at 10pm for a late night meal, probably due to its having just been written up on Guidelive (you may have won this round Guidelive, but we'll win the war!!!).
Anyway, the place is a solid 10 on the ambiance scale. A big picture of Frankie (that's Sinatra for all you youngsters out there, not Frankie "Malcom in the Middle" Muniz) looks down upon the whole place from his perch right next to the bar (where else?), and he would definitely approve of the entire wall of wine on the opposite side of the room as well as the overall swingin' vibe in this joint. Dark tables, brick and several mirrors prevail throughout the interior, which is cozy and intimate without seeming overcrowded even when it is. But the outdoor patio area, where you can take a seat and watch all the dressed-to-kill Dallas denizens doing der ding (badda bing! Say that three times fast!), is really what this place is all about.
The menu is straightforward and relatively simple, with salads, sandwiches and rolls, entrees and, the main attraction, the pizza. Flip the menu over for the wine menu which is listed by taste instead of by the type of wine, which makes it a lot easier to know what you're getting and prevents having to follow the time honored method of ordering the second-least expensive wine on the menu (that way, the mark up may not actually be more than the bottle itself!). Coal Vines' menu actually has quite a few affordable wines on its list, and the wine we chose on our waiter's suggestion was very nice and not that expensive. In case you hadn't guessed, the "Coal" in "Coal Vines" stands for the coal oven that the pizza is baked in and the "Vines" is for the wine (and the "TGI" in "TGIFriday's" stands for "Thank God It's" and "KFC" stands for "Your arteries are about to explode, please see a doctor.").
So, that brings us to the afore-mentioned main attraction, the pizza. Sure, you could order sandwiches, pasta or meat dishes at this place, but why bother when it has the only coal burning pizza oven in town? Anyone who's ever had real New York or authentic Italian pizza with perfectly thin, charcoal burnt crust knows what a difference a coal burning oven makes, and it showed in their pizza -- we ordered the Regular Thin Crust: just mozzarella and tomatoes with some extra anchovies thrown in for good measure. It came to us fresh from the oven, the crust was thin as advertised, slightly charred and crispy, the tomato sauce was nice and warm with just enough cheese and anchovies on top. The pizzas cost $11-14 for a small and the larges are each only $1 more. Since we ended up taking almost half of our large home with us, this is one place where it definitely makes sense to super-size it.
Overall, Coal Vines has the look, feel and food of a hip Manhattan pizza joint, and it should continue to thrive even after the Paper City crowd has moved on. It has plenty of ambiance to spare, and it keeps the food simple but simply good. On our Rat Packed five gavel scale (TM), where five is Frankie and one is Peter Lawford, Coal Vines gets four and a half gavels.