An order of blistered shishito peppers is served with garlic aioli at Skyline Kitchen & Vine.
An order of blistered shishito peppers is served with garlic aioli at Skyline Kitchen & Vine.

At loose ends and feeling a bit peckish, I invited a buddy to join me for drinks and small plates at Skyline Kitchen & Vine, an inviting and stylish “casual upscale” room you’d never know was formerly a neighborhood gas station and mini-mart.

I ordered a beet martini ($11) with beet-infused vodka, lemon juice and ginger/citrus syrup. My pal tried a huckleberry hooch ($11) of huckleberry vodka paired with mint, lime juice and elderberry. Surprisingly, the sweet/sour/spicy combo transformed the earthiness of beetroot into something quite quaffable. Meanwhile, the hooch’s mix of fruit and herb notes was dangerously tasty, not too sweet and really refreshing.

We selected a pair of three-taco plates ($12 each)—one steak, one calamari. The small, white corn tortillas stuffed with strips of tender grilled beefsteak, white cheddar, arugula and salsa verde were considerably spicy but had a nice, creamy finish. A little less satisfying were tacos with fried, breaded squid chopped up and mixed with Asian slaw and Sriracha. The squid wasn’t tough, but I think I would have preferred it grilled or stir-fried. The slaw was bland, and the flavors of breading and chili sauce were overpowering.

Next up was an order of jumbo bison meatballs ($8.75) with roasted garlic, Parmesan, fried basil and arrabbiata sauce. We also ordered a bowl of blistered shishito peppers ($8.50) fried in duck fat and served with roasted garlic aioli. “Jumbo” apparently means just a bit larger than a golf ball, though the pair were pretty moist and flavorful. They were completely outshone by the sauce of garlic, tomato and dried red chili cooked in olive oil. They should include a few crusts of bread to sop up that delicious, spicy sauce. The mild peppers were very smoky, just a bit sweet and pleasantly enjoyable dipped in aioli. We went through ’em like a bowl of chips.

Last, we chose the Skyline Pick 4 ($28 for any four small $5-$10 plates). We started with Crimini mushrooms stuffed with spicy chorizo, goat cheese and thyme ($7.75 for six); flank steak marinated in shoyu, cumin and cilantro and skewered with bell pepper, red onion and mushroom ($8.95 for two); Thai ginger/shoyu marinated chicken wraps with butter lettuce, shredded carrot, cilantro and rice noodle ($8.95 for two); and prosciutto wrapped asparagus with Parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette atop a mixed green salad ($7.75 for two).

Though the meat and cheese ‘shroom stuffing was adequate, there wasn’t much spice or flavor—mostly salt and a heavy amount of breading. The steak skewers were fantastic—quite spicy and complex—with a nice, smoky finish. The large leaves of stuffed butter lettuce were a bit daunting and messy. There were definite hints of fish and peanut sauce, and the overall effect was so good I didn’t mind the dripping, and the ample topping of what was essentially mi krop—Thai-style crispy rice noodles doused in a bit of lightly sweet tamarind—was a real bonus. The asparagus spears were great. The bed of salad on which they were served was nice on its own.

After all of that, the two of us barely made a dent in the menu. Those small plates add up to a full belly pretty quick, no room for dessert temptations.

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