EatDrinkJax.com takes a moment with Chad and Ian of Ovinte.
Talking wine and tapas with Managing Partner Chad Munsey and Chef Ian Lynch of Ovinté
1. Tell us about Ovinté.
Chad: It's a new style of dining that I call European style dining. Whether you're sitting on couches or at a table you order small plates of food to share with others. It then becomes about the experience of who you're with and the conversation you're having. Dinners aren't rushed - they're more likely to take 2 hours than 30 minutes. It's about the whole idea of how food, wine, and conversation bring people together. In a nutshell, we're a restaurant that serves tapas and small plates along with wine, cocktails and beer. About 50% of our dining is lounge style dining on the couches, which we have both inside and outside. The other 50% is more traditional dining tables. We have a big bar area as well.
2. What do you mean by European style dining?
It's the way meals are enjoyed in Europe. They're really long. Lunch can take 3 hours and be followed by a nap, with dinner at 11 o'clock at night, which can also be a 3 hour meal. It's about the experience, and not just rushing to eat. For us at Ovinté it's about creating an atmosphere that slows things down so people can enjoy their experience and the people they're with.
3. Where does the name Ovinté come from?
It's a word we made up that we wanted to represent a toast, similar to Opa! or Sláinte! that would capture the experience of raising a glass to being with good friends and having good conversation while also enjoying good food and good drinks. We later found out that it's a Portuguese slang word that means "goodness," which goes along with what we're doing.
4. Do people come for dinner or are they generally coming prior to dinner to enjoy some appetizers and a drink?
They absolutely come for dinner. We have three main ways that people come to Ovinté. Some people come for happy hour along with a small bite such as a cheese plate or a few tapas. We have other people who come for dinner. That's what we want to stress - we are a full restaurant, we're not just a wine bar with a couple of bites to eat. We also have people who come after they've eaten dinner somewhere else. We're open later than most places so a lot of people like to swing by to relax and enjoy a drink in the evening. People come to Ovinté because they want to avoid the nightclubs and the bar scene. We're more of a restaurant-lounge than a nightclub.
5. What do you mean by a "wine lounge?"
Chad: I coined the phrase because I didn't want to be known as just a wine bar. We wanted to let people know that we also serve cocktails, which are usually associated with a lounge rather than a bar. But we really want to be known just as Ovinté, and to let people add their own assumption after that. We can be a place to enjoy wine or a cocktail but we also have a restaurant side that serves really amazing, high quality food.
6. What's the difference between tapas and a small plate?
For us, our tapas are much smaller portions and they're designed to be shared. Our small plates are half portions of our entrées. The idea is that you can come in, share a few tapas with the table, then if you wanted you could order a small plate for yourself. That would be your meal. Where most restaurants will have a filet or fish that's 6-8 ounces, all of our proteins are 4 ounces. They're scaled back to keep the price point down but to also allow you to enjoy the tapas along with the small plate. This way you get to share and enjoy a wide range of flavors, rather than just having one thing.
7. Is there a particular style to your food?
Chad: I'd say it reflects a Spanish and Italian influence.
8. Are your wine selections and cocktails designed to complement your food offerings?
Chad: Definitely. Our wine list has about 225 items. 75 of those are available by the glass. 50 are available by the glass from the bar. Another 25 are available from our WineEmotion machine. I call it our adult vending machine - you basically buy a gift card that lets you dispense wine in 1, 2 or 4 ounce pours. That gives you a lot of options to try different things. After you buy the card it's a self serve option.
For cocktails we're one of the first in our area to focus on craft spirits for the cocktails we design. These are small batch, up and coming spirit makers. They're typically domestic, boutique distilleries that are making really fun, great bourbons, vodkas, gins and other things in very small batches. There's been a big movement in wines for a long time that focuses on smaller batch production. This is similar, but for distilled spirits. It's a little more hand made and creative. In addition to these we also have a full array of all the standard spirits.
Our beers include a number of craft beers. We have 4 beers on draft, including Intuition. Then we have a full range of bottled beers.
9. Who's the audience for Ovinté?
Chad: I'd say it's late 20's to early 60's. We have a wide range of people who come through the door. Our core crowd is going to be people who want to enjoy a nice atmosphere and good quality products. We also appeal to many people who want to enjoy their experience with a locally owned business rather than one of the larger corporately owned restaurants.
10. What attracted you to the St. Johns Town Center area?
Chad: There are 3 partners at Ovinté - myself and 2 other gentlemen. One of them owned the building and reached out to me a year and a half ago and asked if I was interested in helping him do something with the building space. Beyond having our own free standing building, the Town Center is, for lack of a better word, a juggernaut of business. It seems to be recession proof. There's a constant flow of traffic out here. We knew we were surrounded with corporate restaurants but we thought it was time for an independent to show up out here.