A dalliance with suburbia
Questioning the American dream at Vintner Grill. It smells nice, too.
Thu, Feb 26, 2009 (midnight)
Photo: C. Moon Reed
Sweet, sweet suburbia, how I’ve missed you. That’s what I thought as I pulled open the giant letter “V” on the door of Vintner Grill. I felt a sense of relieved homecoming, though it was my first visit to the Summerlin bistro.
As I was driving to Vintner, Summerlin’s cool, sleek magic was already massaging my artistic sensibilities into a happy numbness. The cars were nicer. The buildings were nicer. A gas-station attendant offered to pump my gas for free. I almost forgot the recession.
Yes, I know that as a card-carrying artiste, I should hate suburbia. And I do. I hate the driving and the conformity and the sterilized boringness of it all. However, membership does have its advantages. And those advantages were never more apparent than when I entered that white and lime cloud of “casual elegance” on a Friday night at 8 p.m. The dark, crowded room was humming with free-from-the-office excitement.
- Restaurant Guide
- Vintner Grill
- 10100 W. Charleston Blvd., 567-8049.
Brushing past the glamorous hostess, I soon found myself sipping decently priced cocktails with two elegant girlfriends whose upscale beauty matched the tailored style of the place. We sat on a pillow-laden banquette and pointed out the cougars to each other. The businesswomen drinking off the frazzle reminded me of a Barbie I had as a kid, whose reversible pink business suit transformed into a cocktail dress.
I went back a second time, meeting the Curmudgeonly Cocktail Connoisseur (CCC) for happy hour on a Friday. He was in his element, and joyously resumed an ongoing argument with the sommelier about the wine list.
Observing the sparse 5:30 p.m. crowd, I felt like a little kid sitting at the grown-up table. Everybody else was wearing suits, conservative hairstyles and the visual weight of heavy mortgages. As the interloper encroaching on the real adults, I wondered if their present was my future (assuming I’m lucky enough to find financial success). Was Vintner the endpoint of the American dream? If so, was that a bad thing? What if all I had to hope for, like many of the patrons, was middle-aged decline buoyed by enough money for eye cream but not enough time to wear it? The sunlight-filled room suddenly felt dark. I shuddered.
When CCC’s debate ended, he explained to me that the neon-free Vintner was made for locals who want to pretend they’re in a different city. Vegas-weary patrons can imagine themselves in Scottsdale, Laguna Beach or Somewhere Better. Down to the magical-fairy-garden outdoor seatblazing fire pit with lanterns hanging from trees and white tents—the illusion is perfect. With one exception: video poker inlaid in a marble bar top. What a combination! It’s like in Gone With the Wind, when Scarlett O’Hara’s rough hands reveal to Rhett Butler that the rich green dress she wears is made from her curtains. It’s still Vegas, after all. And I’m more than happy with that. Who wants to live in Laguna Beach, anyway?
Here I go again, subjecting innocent bars to unrealistic standards of transcendence. No restaurant deserves to carry my fear of mortality. This place doesn’t even count as suburbia in the strictest sense. Most importantly, it’s not a chain. Vintner is owned by the local Corrigan family, which also owns Agave, all the Roadrunners and the office park in which Vintner resides. Think of it as a one-off cookie-cutter, one that makes cookies using dough from the finest ingredients. Furthermore, Executive Chef Matthew Silverman’s award-winning daily menu rises above pedestrian luxury. Perhaps Vintner is a bird whose wings are flapping against the ceiling of suburbia—it has the power to break free, but if it did, it would abandon its audience. Or, in CCC’s words, Vintner succeeds because it’s perfect for where it is.
I’m not going to go quoting Revolutionary Road to you. However, my only complaint is that, like suburbia, Vintner is highly pleasant, but doesn’t engage my emotions beyond the surface level. As CCC said, Vintner has a lot of style, but not a lot of character. Unlike many Vegas joints, it lacks a literary pedigree or a sense of danger or flamboyance or anything. It’s just nice. Quality food. Pretty décor. Affluent customers. Attractive waiters. Everything you want from the white-picket-fence dream. For most people, these qualities exceed expectations, but for me, that success is boring. Though I have to admit, while I love the hipster irony of a dirty dive bar, it’s nice to drink in a place that doesn’t smell.