There’s still a tiny Quiznos sticker in the kitchen at Vinbero — the only proof the cozy wine bar, nestled into a small strip mall, was ever a sandwich shop chain. Thankfully Kali and Kris Kelnero, owners of the wine bar and eponymous cocktail bar Kelnero, both located in downtown Edmonds, didn’t have a pizza-shaped roof to overcome when they took over the space a year ago.
They did, however, take over a space with a following. For the nine years previous to the opening of Vinbero, the space was The Cheesemonger’s Table owned by Strom Peterson and Maria Montalvo, a couple that had been running restaurants in Edmonds for decades.
Peterson is currently a state representative and Montalvo works for a nonprofit; Kali Kelnero says the couple had been running The Cheesemonger’s Table as “kind of a hobby.” However, “it’s not a fun hobby when there’s a pandemic and it’s one that takes an obscene amount of time.”
The restaurant community in Edmonds is close-knit, and when Peterson and Montalvo approached the Kelneros with a proposal to take over the business, Kelnero calls it an offer “we couldn’t refuse.”
“Even though we had found out maybe a week before that we were pregnant with our first child, and it was still a pandemic. But, at that point it was clear to us [our restaurant] Kelnero was going to survive. So, for better or for worse we decided to go for it,” she says.
They worked on giving the space a face-lift — it now features an intimate-feeling open kitchen with an impressive abstract wood installation on the walls and a welcoming bar. The red leather seats are the same cushy ones at Kelnero, a very intentional decision.
“Uncomfortable restaurant chairs are like a sales tactic. When we opened Kelnero, we were like that’s bull. We literally sat in chairs [to find the best].”
Some things have remained the same as when it was The Cheesemonger’s Table. They still serve popcorn, for example, but they’ve swapped the truffle seasoning for simple, yet decadent, butter, salt and pepper. And Cheesemonger’s Table regulars will recognize a few sandwiches — the turkey brie, caprese and chicken club — but there’s also a banh mi, a French onion sandwich and a Reuben, plus salads, soups and an evening menu with more tapas-style small plates. Kelnero says the evening program is a nod to Olives, the first restaurant Peterson and Montalvo opened over 20 years ago. The wine list is robust, offering a little something for any price range.
A friend and I split a banh mi ($16) and the turkey brie ($15), both served with popcorn. We also opted for a bowl of the gooey mac and cheese ($11). The sandwiches are pure Goldilock’s perfection — not too big and not too small. They’re positively stuffed with filling, the bread sourced from nearby at The Cottage Community Bakery. Kelnero says Cottage owner Conor O’Neill created an exclusive bread program just for Vinbero. The restaurant is also selling his incredible rye chocolate chip cookie ($3), rightly listed as the “best chocolate sea salt rye cookie in the world” on the menu. Add all that and a glass of orange wine (they’ve also got beer, mead and an impressive nonalcoholic list), and Vinbero is a wonderful place to spend a leisurely lunch.
If you’re into evenings at Vinbero, keep an eye on their socials for quarterly wine dinners.
Vinbero: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; 203 Fifth Ave. S., Suite 1, Edmonds; 425-640-8949; vinbero.bar
Elsewhere in Edmonds, I had just about the biggest sandwich of my life at nearby Bucatini. The classic red-sauce Italian joint has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened in 2016.
If you’re in the mood to split a sandwich with someone (seriously), consider going there for either The Meatball ($15.75) or The Wild Rockfish ($15.75). Each is on a literal half loaf of bread, split open and crammed with toppings. I’m talking more meatballs than you would find in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Slabs of rockfish fillets dredged in lemony breadcrumbs and piled obscenely high.
The Meatball is ladled with a garlicky marinara that soaks into the toasted bread, softening it just enough to dull the crunch. It’s topped with a layer of melted mozzarella and provolone and is probably large enough to split three ways.
The Wild Rockfish has a creamy rémoulade and a crunchy, lemon cabbage slaw. It feels a bit lighter than the meatball, but it’s still an intensely large sandwich. Again, perfect to share — perhaps with the addition of a side salad to help balance things out.
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 9818 Edmonds Way, Edmonds; 425-361-1487; bucatiniedmonds.com