Brewed beverage at Vino Volo.

Vino Volo | Ale House Review

Food Reviews

SLC International Airport

Terminal 2 – Between Concourses D&E

Mon.– Sun. 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.

An “Oasis in the Desert” is quite possibly the most apt description for Vino Volo Ale House, now open in the SLC International Airport. With the collaborative efforts of the Vino Volo franchise and the Squatter’s brand, Utah now boasts:–The flagship airport wine/beer collaboration of Vino Volo’s 18 locations.

–The premier, upscale restaurant destination at Salt Lake City International Airport.

–A marque statement of the quality of Utah breweries and boozy acumen to skeptic travelers.

–The only positive reason to get to the airport two, maybe three, hours early.

–Utah is a desert, and liquor is wet…an “Oasis in the Desert.”

Salt Lake Brewing Co. co-founders Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis (of Squatter’s fame) have partnered with Vino Volo visionary Doug Tomlinson to bring a new twist to Vino Volo’s revolutionary concept of upscale food and wine options to the jet-set. The merging of these two business models, Vino Volo’s airport dining/wine experience with Squatter’s brew-pub expertise and familiarity with Utah DABC regulations, results in an experience that puts us, the patron, as the greatest benefactor of the pairing.

Vino Volo Ale House.
Vino Volo Ale House. Photo courtesy: Squatters

Despite the upscale wine-lounge atmosphere, Vino Volo Ale House (VVAH) makes every aspect of the experience educational and approachable. There is no reason to hesitate in asking the knowledgable staff for information, options and pairing suggestions.

The atmosphere of the space is incredibly inviting, energetic and bright as well. With two full service bars and dining that accommodates 75-plus, it is a perfect size to handle the flow of airport traffic and keep people moving while also allowing a respite for weary travelers and those looking to take the edge off before a flight.

Vanessa Chang, of Bacon Creative in Salt Lake, noted that walking into VVAH almost feels like you’ve “stepped into another city.” Part of her feelings are evident with the contemporary take on Western/Mountain styling, but more jarring to my sensitized Utah eyes is the celebratory nature of the wine and beer offerings, which are incorporated into the wall niches all around you. There is no “Zion-Curtain” at VVAH, and the staff makes no apologies for it!

The wine offerings are where VVAH really shines! Vino Volo, derived from “wine flight” in Italian; offers wine flights for all of their wine offerings. Grouped by designation—“World Value Reds,” “Sommelier Series” or “Classic Cabernets” for example—and ranging from $8 to $23, the three samples (also available by the glass) come with perforated info cards; relating region, varietal, winery, flavor profiles and pairings.

Since the DABC still controls the distribution to VVAH, there is a great chance you can find your new favorite wine at your state liquor store. Of course, the draft beers are the same way: available in flights and by the glass, as well as locally in the city. Since many draft offerings are from local breweries, you will be pleased to see some of your regular favorites, from RedRock to Squatter’s, Bohemian to Moab and Desert Edge.

So, I bet you’re saying to yourself, “With all the wine, beer and cocktails, what’s the cheapest thing on the menu that I can order as my ‘food item’ to appease the DABC Gods??” The answer is simple: $3 cured olive plate, but, due to different regulations at the airport, you can actually walk in and just order a drink with no food! “What’s that you say? I can order a drink at 8 a.m.! Spectacular!”

However, you would be remiss to skip the fare that VVAH offers. With a robust menu that includes breakfast, appetizers, salads/soups, sandwiches, specialties and desserts, VVAH has taken a cue from its Squatter’s menu and offers some solid pairings to accompany the diverse wine and beer selections. A Fresh Pear and Brie Salad ($7-half, $12-whole), was a great introduction to the menu. In the last two years this has become a very popular salad at a lot of restaurants, but for good reason.

It ups the ante with crisp pear slices, candied pecans with brie cheese and a bright, flavorful champagne vinaigrette. The Cubano sandwich ($7-half, $12-whole), with roast pork Milanesa, has a jalapeno spread that offers some sweet heat as it accompanies the queso fresco and pineapple. Served on ciabatta bread, the Cubano continues the theme of “refined yet relaxed” that is the trademark of Vino Volo. The options to order in whole and half size also parallels the reality that travelers are on the go and smaller plates allow for lighter stomachs—you can be sated but not gluttonous.

My only complaint about Vino Volo Ale House is the cover charge. As a Salt Lake resident, I was overjoyed when bars got rid of sponsorships, but now I will have to buy a plane ticket just to be able to visit SLC’s newest lounge, and you will, too, so be sure to take advantage of the luxury when you can.

Check out our exclusive photo gallery from the day here.

Penne & Cheese. Photo: Barrett Doran
Cubano Sandwiches. Photo: Barrett Doran