Coal Vine's Mozzarella Sticks: Bar Food For Kids, and Maybe Adults Too

Coal Vines: so cliché, with that portrait of a young Frank Sinatra hung beside the bar, his face gazing upward. You might wonder if the moon's in his eyes, though that's another another artist that's equally as shopworn in New York Style Pizza joints. And here that cheesy tune is playing too, ting-a-ling-a-ling - it's almost a parody. But then you look around the room at Coal Vines, and all is forgiven.

Maybe it's that gorilla of a bartender who places your napkins just like so, and always tops of your wine before it empties. Or the Dominic Chianese look-a-like who greets you at the door, makes sure you have a seat, and slowly grazes on a salad from behind large glasses after things get slow.

It's much more likely the pizza, fired by coal, just as the name of the restaurant suggests, which offers a passable attempt at recreating the style of pie served on every singe corner and borough of New York City. A northerner could sit here, eyes closed, with a folded slice in his hand and pretend they are back home. Me? I'm here to revisit a long lost friend.

I started my bar-food habit quite young. Throughout my early teens I had a serious fried mozzarella problem. I lived in one of those communities with a clubhouse that had a pool and a restaurant, and one day my mother was out of cash, so when I asked for a snack she told me to put it on her tab.

You can imagine the wave of euphoria that washed over me when I realized a seemingly limitless supply of deep fried mozzarella cheese sticks could be conjured at a moment's notice, simply by uttering the words "lot thirteen." For the next 30 days I indulged my addition with reckless abandon, sometimes two orders at a time. Thankfully, the resultant bill put my bender on a permanent hiatus.

But while sitting at the bar at Coal Vines I decided to embrace my teenage vice for old time's sake. Thankfully, they no longer hold the same allure, though the prosciutto the kitchen adds to each stick is a nice touch, as is the salad of roast peppers and capers. You might enjoy them, though not as much as the pizza. Just don't sing along to the Dean Martin. And do not put it on my mom's tab.

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