The titular wilderness of Jungle Vino is an urban—or rather, urbane—one. It’s more refined than the howling atmosphere of its sister store next door, Java Jungle, the area’s favorite hangout for fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Jungle Vino, being a wine bar, aims instead for quiet sophistication and just about hits the mark. It has the hipster vibe that’s all the rage in the revitalized downtown, but it’s tempered by a relaxed, hole-in-the-wall atmosphere.
Though the primary focus is wine, Jungle Vino is also attracting attention for its high-quality sandwiches. The menu has page after page of wines and cocktails but just a few sandwiches. One small problem is that the sandwiches don’t have names; you must read each lengthy description and then order by number. This is a minor complaint, petty even, but it makes menu perusal and ordering less enjoyable (though I must admit that everyone in my group—four immature, 20-something males—found the phrase “number two” to be an endless source of puerile hilarity).
Why not take a cue from other local sandwich shops that name their sandwiches after gangsters or artists, and name the Jungle Vino sandwiches after wild beasts, like the leopard or the orangutan? (On second thought, that might be a bad idea. I imagine that some literal-minded environmentalists might be offended by a restaurant serving monkey sandwiches.)
Interestingly, each sandwich is listed with a specific type of bread, but when taking orders, the servers always ask what kind of bread you want. Though each of us ordered different numbered sandwiches, all four of us chose the ever-popular toasted sourdough.
The sandwiches are all large, the ingredients fresh and plentiful. Paul had the number one ($5.50), a turkey and provolone deal. I had the number two ($5.50), another turkey sandwich, this one with cranberry chutney and cream cheese. The meat was piled high, and the sandwich was at just the right, slightly warm temperature and was quite good.
Joe had the number three ($6), which the menu claims is based on a San Francisco sushi roll (though without rice or seaweed, the main ingredients of sushi) that contained cucumber, spinach, bell peppers, red onions, olives and an avocado sauce. Though I remain skeptical, Joe claimed it was excellent. Dan had the number seven ($6), a traditional ham and Swiss. Dan was the only one dissatisfied with his meal, because his sandwich arrived inexplicably cheese-less, and the accompanying potato chips were of the style commonly known as “bottom of the bag.”
Despite some minor quibbles, we had a great experience at Jungle Vino because of the good food, comfortable ambience and—lest I neglect to mention it—the excellent, friendly service.
This being a wine bar, and having been unduly influenced by a certain recent Academy Award-nominated movie, I ordered a glass of pinot noir, Buchli Station California ($7.25), which tasted fine to my palate, though it hasn’t been trained to perceive esoteric flavors in wine.
I suppose I might attend one of Jungle Vino’s regular Tuesday night wine tastings in order to learn, and I’ll be sure to get a sandwich then as well.