Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Mad for Mad & Vin: The Landsby hotel's Solvang restaurant hits the spot
Mad & Vin—the phrase translates from Danish to “food and wine,” but the restaurant of the same name has much more to it than that.
Located in The Landsby hotel in Solvang, Mad & Vin offers an extensive and unique menu, including well-priced and well-portioned happy hour offerings. I recently caught the restaurant’s happy hour—which runs from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Friday—and I left the dining room overstuffed and happy as hell (pun unintended).
I started the evening with a glance through the cocktail menu. It featured a list of shrub drinks, which use a special type of fruit liqueur and don’t pop up on just any old cocktail menu. So I took advantage of the opportunity and tried both the Pirates Cove (Papa’s Pilar Rum, kiwi cardamom shrub, lime juice, angostura bitters) and the Pale Shelter (gin, grapefruit shrub, orange bitters). The former boasted a bold and smoky flavor, the latter sweet and easy. Both left me impressed.
As for food, I stuck to the happy hour menu. Its items ranged in price from $5 to $12, so I expected some dinky portions and ordered three plates: the calamari, which was new to Mad & Vin and comprised golden fried calamari, lemon, peppers, sweet onion, and aioli; chicken drumettes, also a new menu addition, which were deep fried with a sweet and sour sauce and paired with a green harissa dressing; and the clam pot, which my waiter claimed was among the restaurant’s most popular menu items and included littleneck clams and linguica sausage in a saffron broth.
And … damn. First off, any one of those plates could have filled me. (But don’t worry—my plus-one Gabby and I picked all three clean.) On top of that, each was completely spectacular.
If you’ve read my column before, you may know I have no idea how to approach fancy foods. So while the processes of eating calamari and drumsticks raised few questions (being that I could just act like the animal I am and eat them with my hands), the clam bowl was a bit of a head-scratcher.
It came accompanied with this really tiny fork (apparently called a shellfish fork, thanks Wikipedia), and it looked like soup but there were shells in it, and the whole thing gave me anxiety. But once Gabby taught me how to use the tiny fork to extract the clam meat from its shell (shoutout to her), I got my crap together and ate like a normal human. And I enjoyed it, though I felt like of all the dishes we tried, the clam pot had the least bang for your buck as far as actual meat went.
I was forewarned that the chicken drumettes would be spicy, but really they carried more of a harmless kick (and you can trust me, because I’m a total weenie when it comes to spicy foods). They were sweet and messy and filling. But the calamari was probably my favorite of the three dishes—zingy and crispy, coupled with some really freaking delicious aioli. I highly recommend it.
Gabby and I ate in the bar/lounge area, not the actual restaurant, but I’d still critique that the table where we sat could have been more practical. It was utterly tiny, and even with my borderline munchkin-sized limbs, I ended up spilling half of Gabby’s Pirates Cove when I tried to cross my legs beneath the table.
But sometimes you have to trade practicality for ambience, and The Landsby certainly isn’t lacking in ambience. The hotel aims for a light and airy feel, but not really minimalist—the walls feature plenty of funky art (my favorite was the hairy alpaca by the bar) and the tables sport curious centerpieces.
All in all, I’d say Mad & Vin’s flavor extends far beyond the menu. See for yourself on your next Solvang trip.
Brenna Swanston wants to apologize to Gabby for embarrassing her at a nice restaurant and also for spilling her drink. Send your fancy eatery horror stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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