Friday, February 26, 2010

New Smyrna Rising: SoNapa

So I have known Tom D. for about 15 years. We have played a lot of golf together, drank a lot of different brews, played cards and dominoes, and have had an all around good time. So when he texts me and says let's have dinner in Deland on Saturday (fabulous restaurant called Cress) and then go see his friend play the saxophone at a place called SoNapa in New Smyrna, I grumble under my breath "this will cost me my entire weekend" but dutifully texted him back "let's do it."

As we get closer to Saturday, Tom discovers that his friend is playing from 7:00 to 9:00 pm so if we want to catch him, that would nix our plan for dinner in Deland. So he deputizes me to find a place for us to have dinner in New Smyrna after listening to this guy play at SoNapa (Why me?). We have a mutual friend, Bill A., who has a condo in New Smyrna so I thought I would short-circuit the process by getting a recommendation from Bill as to a good place to eat in New Smyrna. I call Bill and pose the question. Bill says, "That's funny. We are in New Smyrna for the weekend." "That's great," I say. "You guys can join us but where will we eat." He makes a recommendation but calls back later to say that his wife has nixed his recommendation and, instead, we are going to the Spanish River Grill. Ok.

Going from Lake Mary to the SoNapa location at 761 3rd Avenue in New Smyrna is about a 35-minute ride. On the way to SoNapa we went by Norwoods, long a fixture on the New Smyrna dining/wine scene and home to a fairly large winter wine pouring. The GPS shows us approaching location and I turn into a large, Publix-dominated shopping center looking for SoNapa. We roll by Spanish River Grill (great, they are close to each other) and then notice the SoNapa location just a few storefronts away, directly behind the Riverside Bank branch. We park in the bank parking lot, walk to the entrance of SoNapa, open the door, and ... are confronted by a perfect visual example of what a wine bar should be.

There is seating up front in a foyer-like area which is furnished with comfy-looking, single-seat, dark-brown leather couches and, on the walls behind the couches, racks and racks of wine. As you leave this foyer-like area, you enter into a larger open area which has a bar running along the left-hand side of the room and a (hidden) kitchen area at the top end of the bar. The remainder of the room is occupied by restaurant-style tables and chairs. The word that comes to mind immediately is "cozy." Cozy in a "great place to have wine fun" sense.

Tom and Moxie were already at the bar and so, wide-eyed, we joined them. "This is nice." I pulled out my camera and began popping off at everything in sight. The nice young lady behind the bar (I found out later that her name was Cassie) smilingly (she had seen Japanese tourists before) asked "can I get you something to drink sir." I smiled sheepishly, placed my camera back into my pocket and asked to see the wine list.

The name SoNapa is not a valley-girl name as in "that is so Napa." Rather it indicates the focus of the business. They sell wines from Sonoma and Napa counties for on- or off- premise consumption. The wines that are available are reasonably priced and the by-the-glass wines are available in 3- and 6- ounce pours.

In addition to its wine sales, SoNapa also has a food menu with appetizers, flatbreads, entrees, soups and salads, and desserts. We ordered two appetizers -- the Chalk Hill Flatbread and the Sonoma Coast Oven Roasted Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with flavorful aioli sauce -- and were blown away. We had seconds. We saw some of the entrees -- none over $20 -- as they went by and they were pleasing to the eye.

The place was crowded -- it is capacity rated at 65 -- with people standing around in the foyer waiting for seats in the larger area. The sax player blended in well with the ambiance of the place.

SoNapa is everything that is desirable. It is young, fresh, hip, happening, and noisy. The giant-killer has arrived. We had fun and will go back. It is worth the trip. And coupled with Spanish River Grill, it is a gem of an evening. Get there early.


  1. I think they need to step up their winemaking team, what a bunch of slackers;)

  2. what the....the comment above was for the kapcsandy post...???? Asleep at the computer

  3. SoNapa gets my vote for a cozy + happening wine bar! Love it!

  4. Love SoNapa, had a freat dinner there not so long ago. Check it out @