505 Vine St.
Because it isn't located at street level, Palomino isn't as noticeable as other Fountain Square restaurants. The entrance, sandwiched between Tiffany & Co. and Brooks Brothers, looks at first glance like an alternative entrance to Macy's - and it is. Palomino is an escalator ride up to the second floor. Those who persevere are rewarded with stylish surroundings and a lovely view of the Square through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The restaurant offers a good selection of vegetarian options for both lunch and dinner, including several pastas, sandwiches, salads, and pizza. Their lunch combo provides sampling opportunities, as you get a choice of two for under $10.
While I have been known to frequent Palomino for lunch, their dinner service was an unknown quantity for me so Steve and I decided to stop in after work and give them a shot. Our server informed us that happy hour had just begun, so I ordered a glass of chardonnay ($4) and nibbled the complimentary crusty bread while perusing the menu.
While the Baked Four Cheese Trenne sounded tempting, I opted instead for the Farmhouse Garganelli, which consists of pasta (similar to penne) and vegetables prepared with olive oil and romano cheese. The salty cheese gives this dish a pleasant tang, but it was a little on the dry side. I also expected more than a few small hunks of carrot.
Steve opted for the grilled sirloin with a side of fries and grilled onion pesto. While he found it to be a very tasty selection, he thought the dish needed a vegetable accompaniment, or a small side salad at the very least.
Prices and portions increase in the evening, as does the noise level; urbane cocktail chatter competes with boisterous young professionals as hypnotic house music pulses throughout the restaurant and bar. Don't get me wrong - I love music (and was a DJ for many years) but when a restaurant's music is so loud that normal table conversation is impossible, the dining experience is no longer enjoyable. Palomino understands vegetarianism and gets the food right; it's a shame the volume control lets this place down.