Photos by: Mark DauberTucked away in the Old Cloverdale entertainment district is a rare gem that has a long history of offering fine dining to the River Region. Vintage Year first opened as the Chophouse at Vintage Year in 1984, and after closing for a season, was reopened by new owners Derk Lyerly and Jud Blount on January 5, 2016. In addition to dropping Chophouse from the name, the owners have also changed the philosophy of the restaurant—creating a new history in the process.
Vintage Year began as a wine shop, but eventually started serving patrons gourmet lunches to go with their wines. Lunches led to dinner service, which now includes a menu featuring hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood, duck, rich desserts and an impressive wine and spirits list. Their cuisine ranges from Southern American to French American. On a recent visit, Chef Frederick Henderson certainly impressed me. All the dishes I sampled were as excellent as they were beautiful.
I started the evening with a cocktail called Big Mama’s Punch, which was delightfully fizzy and fruity, and then the server brought out warm bread with herb butter and pan-seared scallops with a lemon-chive buerre blanc. My next course was the spinach salad with fried goat cheese and hot bacon vinaigrette. It’s rare that a salad really stands out in a meal, but this one did - spinach, berries, bacon and then the fried goat cheese, which was like a grown-up grilled cheese, made for a stellar dish. I then moved to my main course, the blackened grouper with crawfish dirty rice, which was perfectly cooked and seasoned. For a sweet ending, my server suggested Vintage Year’s signature dessert, a chocolate bread pudding. It didn’t disappoint.
General Manager Chase Brown explained the philosophy of the food they serve at Vintage Year. He said, “It’s about quality food, fresh and local, and about quantity. We are a straightforward restaurant, offering straightforward, good comfort food.” For the local part, they use several purveyors from our area, including Al Hooks Farms in Shorter, Destin Connection in Montgomery, and Oakview Farms in Wetumpka, among others.
Even though the food was wonderful, the atmosphere and the service may have rivaled the menu. Although Vintage Year is a fine dining establishment, it’s certainly not stuffy. There is an understated elegance and a lively ambience, making you want to linger over your dessert and coffee. Brown said, “We want everyone to be comfortable when they come here. I think we have the best service in town—wine knowledge, spirits knowledge, experience. We want everything to be seamless from the time you get here to the time you leave.”
In addition to the Tuesday through Saturday dinner service, Vintage Year also has a weekly brunch. Brown said, “Our brunch is every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. One unique thing about our brunch is that it includes a Bloody Mary bar.” The brunch menu includes dishes such as eggs benedict, crab cakes, chicken and waffles, French toast, and omelets.
Reviews of the newly-reopened restaurant have been favorable. Comments from the popular foodie site OpenTable describe Vintage Year as “beautiful,” “excellent” and “fantastic.” To find out what folks are talking about, try them out for yourself. Vintage Year is located at 405 Cloverdale Road in Montgomery, and they are open for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, a full menu, and a wine and spirits list, visit their website at www.vymgm.com.