Vicia Wine Garden opens in the Central West End

It’s been a busy couple of months for Take Root Hospitality Group. In April, owners Michael and Tara Gallina and Aaron Martinez opened a permanent storefront for the popular Taqueria Morita; not quite a month later, in May, the group’s flagship restaurant, Vicia, transitioned its menu format from its set Farmers Feast menu to a la carte service. Also in May, Vicia hosted an exciting dinner with acclaimed chef Lee Wolen of BOKA Chicago, as well as one with James Beard award winning chef/author and Italian wine importer Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson (who also owns Frasca in Boulder), all the while keeping things running smoothly at their other two restaurants, Bistro La Floraison and Winslow’s Table.

And they aren’t done yet.

The Gallinas and Martinez are now welcoming guests to a brand new concept, Vicia Wine Garden (4260 Forest Park Avenue), which opened June 6 in the former Taqueria Morita outdoor dining pavilion on the grounds of their Cortex flagship.

Offering a casual, alfresco way to enjoy the acclaimed food, drinks, and hospitality, the new space is meant to be a place for people to gather before or after dinner, for happy hour, or anytime the mood for snacks and drinks strikes. “We want people to see it as a place to gather with friends, come by after work or for date night, and have a drink before or after dinner,” says Tara Gallina. “It’s a very flexible space. People enjoy being out there; it’s lovely, and it’s great to see it alive again.”

Vicia Wine Garden is open Thursday through Saturday from 5–8 p.m., weather permitting. Here’s what to know before you go.

The Space

Located in the beautifully landscaped lawn outside of Vicia, Vicia Wine Garden is an oasis in the middle of the Cortex Innovation Community. Like its predecessor, Taqueria Morita (which moved into its permanent digs just around the corner on Duncan Avenue), Vicia Wine Garden features several sleek tables spaced out around a black metal sculptural pavilion that provides respite from the sun and light rain. Pea gravel, and large stones serve as a foundation for grasses, potted plants, herbs, and wildflowers, all of which give the area a natural feel. 

Guests can relax in the serene setting by ordering from their tables via QR codes. Those who want to interact with staff or who have questions can also order at the outdoor bar, which takes up one side of the space. Food is brought out to the table by servers as soon as it is ready. 

“It’s zero reservations; you just come on up,” says Gallina. “It’s going to be a very chill, no-fuss, casual experience. 

The Menu

Gallina describes Vicia Wine Garden as offering “snacks, wine, and a place to hang out.” To that end, the food menu consists of small plates that are meant for grazing before or after dinner. Items are curated from Vicia restaurant’s current a la carte menu and tweaked to be friendlier to outdoor dining.

Options include nuts, olives, crudites, and oysters. Vicia Wine Garden also serves two different toasts, which are meant to be composed riffs on a cheese and charcuterie plate: One is made with fresh ricotta, the other with house-made coppa. 

“It’s not meant to be a full dinner, though it does appeal to a girl dinner clientele,” says Gallina. “If someone is still hungry and wants more, we will gladly find a table for them at Vicia for a full meal.”

Gallina describes the wine list, curated under the leadership of wine director Kevin McKay, as fun and adventurous, but also filled out with classic offerings. In addition to wine and a small selection of craft beer, the Wine Garden serves a line of frozen adult cocktails, such as a negroni, or a seasonal selection, which is currently watermelon.

“Our hope is that there will be this cross-pollination that happens between the Wine Garden, Vicia the restaurant, and Taqueria Morita,” says Gallina. “We want to encourage people to move about and are looking forward to seeing more activation and energy on that corner, now that we have three different concepts on it.”

The Backstory

The Gallinas moved to Michael’s hometown of St. Louis in 2015, after honing their hospitality and culinary chops at chef Dan Barber’s acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. In 2017, the pair opened Vicia to immediate success, garnering accolades including a “Best New Restaurant” selection by Eater, Esquire, and Bon Appetit, as well as a Food & Wine “Best New Chef in America” selection for Michael and multiple James Beard Award nominations, including for “Best New Restaurant,” “Outstanding Wine & Bar Program,” two “Best Chef Midwest” nods for Michael, and two “Outstanding Restaurateur” nods for their restaurant group, which they operate with Martinez. 

“At the end of the day, Michael, Aaron, and I want to create places where we want to eat,” says Gallina. “We feel that, as a community, people want casual experiences like this, and we are leaning into that.”

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