Restaurants for Winos

The following restaurants come highly recommended by some of our traveling wino friends.  Now that we are immortalizing these establishments on WinoStuff, you should definitely call ahead for reservations.

Burlingame, CA 94010 
Kuleto's Trattoria 
1095 Rollins Rd.
The excitement begins when you round the corner just inside Kuleto's entrance to face an immense brick oven and open kitchen. Cooks turn out several roasted appetizers: prawns, radicchio, clams paired with mussels. Pizzas are fine, thin-crusted and not over-dressed. Fresh pasta dishes vie for the diner's attention with succulent fried calamari served with garlicky aïoli or peppery Romesco sauce. Main courses of fresh fish, lamb sirloin or chicken paillard wrapped in pancetta are frequently served with vegetable-and-herb sauces for a light presentation. California wines dominate the wine list. For travelers staying near the SF airport, this restaurant is a most pleasant surprise.

San Francisco, CA 94102 
221 Powell St.
Villa Florence Hotel
Pat Kuleto is a restaurateur phenomenon-about-town. He began as a designer (Fog City Diner and Postrio) and also did the design for this beautiful trattoria and lent his name to it, but he is no longer involved. It is quintessential Kuleto: marble, turtleback chandeliers and burnished wood. Focal points are a high, Florentine-style painted ceiling and a mahogany bar with a forest of hanging salamis, pastas, herbs and garlic garlands. The kitchen's best starter is grilled radiccio wrapped in pancetta, but our favorite is the house-made focaccia, a bulb of roasted garlic and an order of fried calamari. We also like the thick-crust pizza with cheese, pancetta and pine nuts.

Stockton, CA 95219
Le Bistro
3121 W. Benjamin Holt Drive
Stockton, CA 95219
Finding a French Continental cuisine restaurant in Stockton, California is a little like finding a needle in a haystack. Stockton, for those of you unfamiliar with California, is about an hour from Sacramento, in the middle of nowhere. Close to Stockton is Lodi, a town made famous by a Creedence Clearwater song. Everything about Le Bistro screams big city cuisine and wine list in a small town. We sampled fresh Coho Salmon, Steak au Poivre, and the Filet; all were exquisitely prepared. The wine list had an equally impressive list of wines, focusing on California's varietals. Ask for the table in the wine room if you're calling for reservations.

Boulder, Colorado
Flagstaff House
Worth a trip to Boulder if you're in the Denver area. The Flagstaff may be pricey, but the service, food, and wine is impeccable. A delightful experience. The bold diner may want to try to match a wine with one of the wild game selections. Or, just ask one of the talented sommeliers on staff.

Tampa, Florida
Bern's Steak House
1208 South Howard Ave.
Tampa, FL  33606
A definite must for anyone who's never been there! This 50 year old legend boasts one of America's best wine lists. In fact, the wine list looks like the Manhattan phone directory with over 60,000 bottles stored in the cellar and warehouse next door.  (Thanks to WinoJim for correcting our error!)  (Update Dec. 27, 2001 - Alert wino, PuFF-DoGG, informs me that Bern's actually offers
over 6,900 different labels and stocks a half million bottles!  They have bottles from the private collections of Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson.  Thanks, DoGG!)

Sea Island, GA
The Cloister  
This island resort off the coast of Georgia boasts a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for its 35,000 bottle cellar.  Eight members of the staff are certified sommeliers.  Championship golf at its best is available, too.  If you dine at the Main Dining Room, be sure to bring your coat and tie.

Chicago, Illinois
Charlie Trotter's
You ain't going to get a short notice reservation here. The restaurant has received the Wine Spectator Grand Award since 1993 and was most recently ranked number one by Wine Spectator. It's expensive as hell, but the wait may be worth it. A wine list with over 1500 selections focusing on Burgundy, Rhone, and California hotties.

Baltimore, Maryland
925 Eastern Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21202
Chef Giovanni Rigato presides over a refined northern Italian venue that suits a high rolling crowd, but still has the graciousness to take excellent care of the special occasion diner. With a consistency few restaurants match, this kitchen turns out an ample list of classics---pastas like orecchiette with porcini mushrooms and bacon; a dozen or so fabulous veal dishes; a terrific Florentine steak. Seafood is always superb, whether simply prepared as in a delicately sauced Dover sole or all-out baroque like the grouper San Remo brimming with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and tomato. Listen attentively to daily specials; there you'll find seasonal splendors, like white truffles in fall, wild game in winter, and soft-shell crabs in summer. Add a richly detailed Italian wine list and a lovely evening is yours for the asking.

Baltimore, Maryland

1000 Lancaster St.
Baltimore, MD 21202 
Charleston's restaurant is a great place to go, halfway between the Inner Harbor tourist area and the Fells Point party area.  If you're in B'more on business, go early or go late unless you're fortunate enough to get a reservation in advance.  And do ask Foreman to pair wine by the glass with each course; you'll be treated to some of his latest finds. A seat in the main dining rooms buys a grand view of the crowd, but for more intimate dining, ask to be seated in the wine cellar.  

Baltimore, Maryland
Harbor Court Hotel
The Harbor Court Hotel overlooks Baltimore's Inner Harbor area while maintaining itself at a dignified distance away from the crowds. Many of the professional baseball players maintain residences in the Harbor Court Condominiums while apartments exist for actors and actresses filming in the rapidly growing movie business. Tucked away in the hotel is a restaurant receiving Mobil's four star award as well as many other award designations. There's a wine to accompany any of the menu selections as well as many more. Enjoy a before dinner drink (or after dinner drink) in the Explorer's Lounge next door.


Baltimore, Maryland
Iron Bridge Wine Company
10435 Route 108
Columbia, MD 21044

Two hints: 1) Don’t take your kids no matter how old they are, and 2) if the parking lot is full, there ain't no seats inside.

The Iron Bridge has a substantial (around 30) list of wines available by the glass.  They have an even more substantial selection of wines available for purchase (and consumption) by the bottle.  I picked a bottle of Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 and did not regret the selection.  The Mt. Veeder was priced at $50 per bottle.  That’s about $10 per bottle higher than retail (in a store), but substantially less than the usual restaurant price doubling.  With a $5 corkage charge, the pricing for a good bottle of wine did not seem outrageous.

The wife ordered a twin shrimp hors oeuvres and I ordered the three-cheese sampler. We had to order the shrimp quickly since there were only two remaining.  The shrimp was good and so was the cheese, but I have to admit, I had never heard of any of the three cheeses on the list.  Later, my appetite was getting the best of me, so I ordered the duck entrée.  The duck was perfectly prepared, sliced similar to a pork tenderloin and very tender.  Must have been raised on a farm.  A word of advice to management:  Find a way to store more food.  This was our second visit and both times, we’ve either been told that an entrée was unavailable or we ordered one of the last ones.

If you’re interested in trying a good bottle of wine in a decent atmosphere, the Iron Bridge is for you.  If your goal is to add a substantial meal to the wine sampling, find another place.

Baltimore, Maryland
Pazza Luna
1401 E. Clement St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
Three cheers for the little guy. This tiny trattoria in an unlikely Locust Point neighborhood is turning out a small, credible Italian menu for a growing cadre of ardent fans. The list of Italian reds complements the selections. The setting is adorable, all moons and stars and bright colors from base plates to chair seats to wall coverings. But owner Kim Acton is serious about comfort - tables are set far apart, even though floor space in this diminutive corner rowhouse is at a premium. Housemade pasta on the daily menu can be stunningly good, as in a summery pesto fettuccine or the garlicky capellini with thyme-scented white clam sauce. Entrées are bold and generous. We loved the double-cut pork chop with balsamic glaze and the shrimp scampi in garlic sauce. Garlic can occasionally take a plate over the edge, but the warning is right there, stamped on the paper-topped linens: In garlic we trust. Absolutely make reservations or you'll never get in.

Baltimore, MD 21202
The Prime Rib Restaurant 
1101 N. Calvert St.
Horizon House
Sexy black lacquer walls, a leopard-skin carpet, a white, Lucite-topped piano complete with tuxedoed player teasing out jazzed-up standards.  Power brokers and couples eager to find that right place congregate around this place. When that strip steak comes, it will be lush, dry-aged, perfectly seared to a caramelized finish. The prime rib, heaped with fresh horseradish, will drape cunningly across the plate. The rockfish, stuffed with crab and capped with a gossamer imperial sauce, will be fresh, moist, and oh-so-flavorful. And the sides of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach will be wickedly rich. Troll the wine list to discover some fabulous Californians, including the occasional endangered species. This is straight-up American steakhouse dining, and there's not much that can top it.

Baltimore, Maryland
Ruth's Chris Steak House
600 Water St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
No need to ask where the beef is, it's coming your way in great hulking portions served sizzling hot on metal platters. Filets, rib-eyes, a gargantuan Porterhouse for two, a classic T-Bone, all usually topped with a big gob of butter. You'll find echoes of the chain's Louisiana roots in offerings like seafood gumbo and shrimp remoulade. This particular location has a stellar wine cellar, some 10,000 bottles strong, intensely focused on California reds. For an after-dinner cigar or a spot of dancing, wind your way upstairs to owner Steve de Castro's lively Havana Club rated as one of Playboy Magazine's top U.S. nitespots.

Baltimore, Maryland
Sotto Sopra
405 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Beginning with its name, which is Italian for "upside down", this restaurant shakes many of the Italian restaurant stereotypes. The food is Northern Italian cuisine and does not fit the stereotypical mode of parmegian-oriented dishes. Of particular interest is the substantial Italian wine list, focusing on reds. Sotto Sopra is lively, staffed with Italian waiters, intimate with a maximum accommodation of 80, and fun.

Baltimore, MD 21202
Tio Pepe 
10 E. Franklin St.
Why Baltimoreans party in Spanish restaurants, we don't know. Here's one of their all time favorites. Waiters in red and blue waistcoats with satiny black lapels dote on you, while the chef attempts to beguile you with his fabulous roast suckling pig and his paella Valenciana. There are, however, three secrets you might want to know before you descend into this whitewashed grotto: They don't appear on the menu, but ask for the potato puffs-divinely crisp twice-fried morsels. If your pockets are well lined, request the reserve wine list for some fabulous old reds. Only if your budget is low should you consider guzzling the mixture of cheap Spanish wine and fruit; I think we called that mixture Spanada in college. Finally, order a mixed appetizer plate for the table and you'll get the chef's selection of house specialties; it's expensive, but generous.

Ellicott City, MD
8293 Main St.
Ellicott City, MD 21043
The dining rooms within this historic flagstone house on Ellicott City's Main Street are quite congenial. The front room has a cozy, familial feel complete with china-laden hutch while the back room is part greenhouse, part drawing room hung with hunting prints. The Tersiguels - Fernand, Odette and son, Michel, - bring a lot of love to their country French cooking, gathering herbs and greens from their own garden and smoking their own trout. The dishes that stick closest to the family's roots - lamb Provençal with roasted red peppers and sweet potatoes, grilled pork chops with lentils, beef tenderloin with a simple wild mushroom sauce - are most satisfying. Less so are those that edge toward modern, like a creamless coquille St. Jacques only theoretically infused with lemon grass and ginger jus. For dessert, do indulge in the very fine chocolate mousse. For single malt lovers, the modest bar has an excellent selection.

Ocean City, Maryland
Galaxy Bar and Grille
62nd Street and Ocean Highway
Ocean City, MD 21842
The Galaxy is one of those restaurants which is always improving.  The decor of this restaurant (modern, California hip with a flair for the artistic) changes each year.  Last year, the restaurant more than doubled in seating size with a two story addition.  The food has a California flair and ranges from game (Venison) to vegetarian dishes.  As you might expect, there's a reasonable amount of seafood on the menu and several excellent steak and pork dishes.  The wine list, while not extensive, is excellent in its range.  Of particular interest, is the wine selection available by the glass.  Make your reservations in advance otherwise you may not get a table until after 9:30pm.

Minneapolis, MN 55402
831 Nicolett Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Upscale Italian with hints of Asian.  Zelo is celebrity dining at its finest, especially if you're not one. Forget about the chance of spotting a star at Planet Hollywood, this upscale Italian eatery makes you the star, bathing its customers in show-quality lighting and wrapping them in its luxe interior. The downtown crowds gather almost every night of the week to people-watch at the long bar, which is decorated with whimsical, and complicated, sculptures. The food is borderline, but no one seems to care. Our rater was in town for the Final Four basketball tournament and the crowds at Zelo were a hit as were the drinks. For a sure-fire hit, order the affettato misto, a colossal appetizer plate, spilling over with Italian meats and cheeses. The plate its served on is so big, your server has to prop it up on a metal stand to keep it out of the way. Avoid the overcooked pastas when ordering dinner and skip to the seafood and grilled items. We like the kalbi-marinated baked halibut with soba noodles, a dish that is more Asian than Italian, but a nice blend of ginger and soy. In the summer, ask for a table outside and enjoy Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis' outdoor pedestrian mall that is free entertainment at its finest.

Minneapolis, MN

40 S. 7th St.
City Center
Minneapolis, MN 55402
One of Twin Cities' finest, for food and service.   Purportedly the best restaurant in Minnesota, Goodfellow's is the restaurant that the locals described as the best in town. Everything about this restaurant, from the luxe art-deco interior, to the list of over 800 domestic wines, to executive chef Kevin Cullen's stunning interpretations of seafood and game, deserves praise. An evening at Goodfellow's unwinds as a series of small but delightful surprises, whether it's an expert reading of the night's menu by your server or a small accompaniment that ties the entire plate together. No detail is considered too small to fuss over. The scallops in the dish of grilled Maine diver scallops with braised venison blini and blackberries knock you out with their tender savor, but it's the blini that leaves a lasting impression, an entre in miniature.  Whenever possible we order the foie gras, which is sometimes seared with sweet and sour papaya, toasted macadamia nuts and baby bok choy. Cullen lets his imagination run wild across a wide range of influences (witness the pheasant consomm with Mascarpone ravioli, white truffle oil, root vegetables and wild mushrooms) but is never clever for cleverness' sake, because for all its inventiveness, Goodfellow's never forgets to deliver pure, sweet pleasure.  An excellent wine list.

Minneapolis, MN

825 Hennepin Avenue
LaSalle Plaza
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Good tapas, fish, crab, tiramisu.  Palomino is a chain restaurant, but you wouldn't know it. With Mediterranean-style food and decor, Palomino looks too avant-garde to be a corporate clone. Their menu includes a number of excellent house specialties including tapas, wood-roasted fish, crab cakes, and tiramisu.  During our Final Four visit, Dick Vitale and his family were seated at  a table nearby. The wine list is brief but impressive for its price range and depth. Some of the micro brews featured were excellent as well.

East Rutherford, New Jersey
The Park and Orchard
An eclectic little restaurant specializing in southwestern and cajun-style cuisines.  A perennial Grand Award winner from The Wine Spectator, get there early as they don't take reservations.  (They do allow you to call your name into the waiting list when you leave your house.)  Try the Crawfish Pasta for a taste treat that you will long remember.  The wine list includes nearly two thousand wines and the cellar has 18,000 bottles, rivaling Wino Wally's cellar for the best in the east.

Fairfield, New Jersey
Bacchus Chop House and Wine Bar
Passaic Ave. 
Fairfield, NJ
Bacchus has become WinoBob's home away from home.  They feature a cozy wine bar with more than 50 selections available by the glass, and a tastefully designed dining room which includes an enclosed private dining area for special occasions.  The food, which consists primarily of steaks and chops, is well proportioned and equally well prepared.  The wait staff is friendly and efficient  and Joe the Wine Guy has put together an impressive wine list. 

Albuquerque, NM
Michelle’s Café
6205 Montgomery NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109
We saw Michelle’s name in the Wine Spectator, receiving some recognition for their wine list.  When we asked some of the locals about the place, many didn’t recognize it or had not been there.  The cuisine is predominantly German.  Niels Rikhof is the proprietor and sometimes, waiter.  We had duck, wiener schnitzel, spaetzle, and a few other dishes that I cannot recall.  I did enjoy the wine list.  While not a mammoth list in terms of numbers of wines, the list did provide a decent variety of European and American wines.  It also had a few difficult to find wines.  Pricing was more than fair, lower than many establishments that I had recently visited.  Recommendation:  Go to Michelle’s for their wines and make sure you know what you’re ordering from the menu.

Albuquerque, NM
Cafe Miche
1431 Wyoming Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87112

While the Cafe Miche may be known to Albuquerquians with a yen towards French food and wine, it ain't easy to find. We looked in the Yellow pages, no luck. Finally, someone told us how to find the place. Leaving the finer area of town, Northeast, and heading south on Wyoming, we found the Cafe Miche in a strip shopping center across the street from another strip shopping center with a pawn shop, gun shop, and a store called the Bead Dame (what the heck is that?). Anyhow, the Cafe Miche was a pleasant surprise.  Despite the gloomy surroundings, the proprietor has made a major tenant improvement on his space with a superbly appointed restaurant. Wino Bob himself would be pleased by the maple wood bar and wine room. Shortly after being shown to our table, S.A.W. Sharon and I were treated to complimentary foie gras and sipping glasses of vermouth with lemon (we bagged the vermouth but wolfed down the foie gras). Sharon ordered an oriental salad which was a special and not on the menu. I ordered the French onion soup. Both appetizers were superb! We ordered a bottle of 1996 Cain Five Meritage to go with our dinner. Sharon ordered the Veal Oscar and I ordered the New York Strip. Despite the cuisine being French, there's nothing like a 24 ounce New York Strip with a bottle of Cain Five. By the way, Cafe Miche has received Wine Spectator's award of excellence in the past. Based on their wine list alone, they deserve it. I saw a bottle of Bourdeaux for $1770, but decided to defer it until Wino Bob visits me on his expense account.  One more thing. I did a search on Digital City for this restaurant and they had no listing either. Shame on them. Tell everyone you heard about this place on WinoStuff. You won't regret it!    Wino Wally

Albuquerque, NM
Terra American

1119 Alameda NW
Albuquerque, NM
I had been working in Albuquerque for six weeks before a friend of mine recommended this restaurant. I was specifically looking for a non-Mexican influenced, East Coast style restaurant (which probably means more like California). I was directed to Terra and did not regret the choice.  Between the daily special preparation of salmon and the leg of lamb, the menu selection is very California and not very Mexican. Terra features a wine list oriented toward the West Coast of the US. My dinner companions and I enjoyed the Valley of the Moon Syrah and the Argyle Pinot Noir. I'd give this place 4 out of 5 stars.     Wino Wally

Ranchos de Taos, NM
Joseph’s Table

4167 Paseo del Pueblo Sur
Ranchos de Taos, NM 87557
A friend of mine who skis every weekend in Taos, told me that this was the place to go for dinner.  Turns out that the chef was just voted one of America's 10 best new chefs by Food and Wine magazine.  Our waitress was extremely knowledgeable and could recite the extensive and eclectic menu from memory.  When we asked her how long she had worked there, she said at five years (restaurant opened in 1995).  The signature dish is the steak au poivre, a peppercorn-crusted fillet of beef tenderloin with smashed potatoes and Madeira mushroom sauce.  I had it and it was delicious.  My wife ordered the seared monkfish with apple cider reduction, miso butter and spicy pine nut dust.  The wine list was formidable with a number of boutique wineries, primarily Californian.  I was amazed at the number of New Mexico wines listed.

Santa Ana Pueblo, NM
Prairie Star
288 Prairie Star Road
Santa Ana Pueblo, NM 87004
Many of the locals in Albuquerque will name Prairie Star as the best restaurant in town (even though it’s outside of town on an Indian reservation).  The restaurant is located in an old adobe house with walls several feet thick.  The house is attached to the clubhouse of a very new, but very nice golf course.  We had heard that the restaurant had a fine wine list and were pleasantly surprised by the depth.  It took us almost 40 minutes to order and receive our wine (part of that was my fault due to the time it took to page through the wine list).  However, speed wasn’t on anyone’s list this night as it was almost two hours from the moment we were seated before we received our appetizer.  The food was outstanding, the wine list had some awesome selections including Grace Family Cabernets in Jeroboams.  I’m not sure why our table received our food so slowly.  We received an apology from the waiter on behalf of the chef.  However, two hours to appetizer is way to slow no matter how good the food is.  This place is too good to avoid, but if your service is as slow as mine, don’t go back again.

Santa Fe, NM 
Anasazi Restaurant
113 Washington Ave.
Santa Fe, NM 87501 
Inn of the Anasazi
The Anasazi Restaurant, located in one of Santa Fe's finest luxury hotels-Inn of the Anasazi-is named for the native Indians who lived there from about AD 800 to 1300.  The restaurant's ambience lends itself to those special romantic dinners. Patrons feast on innovative and memorable dishes, frequently prepared with organic produce. Specials are offered daily.  Chile aficionados will appreciate Anasazi's dinner and dessert offerings. Begin with the chile-rubbed beef tenderloin teased with cinnamon and served with white Cheddar chipotle, chile-enhanced mashed potatoes and a refreshing mango salsa. End the feast with the sour-cream chocolate cake-incredibly moist, incredibly delicioso.  The wine list is particularly impressive.  My dinner partner and I tasted several bottles of California wine that typically don't find their way out of the state.  The wine steward was knowledgeable and helpful with our selections.

Santa Fe, NM 
Bull in the Ring
Washington Street
Santa Fe, NM
I usually grab a card or pack of matches when I leave a restaurant that I enjoy.  Little did I know that failing to do that after my visit to the Bull in the Ring in Santa Fe, I wouldn’t be able to find a listing for the restaurant anywhere.  Not even Digital City, my usual fall back position, had a listing.  So, I can only tell you that Bull in the Ring is on Washington Street, just down from the Inn of the Anasazi in the Wells Fargo Bank Center.  For a restaurant that’s been around for 30 years, you would think you could find a review on Digital City.  Well, the place was named for the state politicians that hang out there, so maybe there’s a reason why they keep a low profile.  The house’s specialty is steak.  My wife and I shared a porterhouse which was out of this world.  The steak was pre-sliced and served on a serving plate.  My wife and I received separate dinner plates which had been coated with a butter and herb sauce.  The method to the chef’s madness was that each of us could take a pre-sliced hunk of beef, cut it into manageable slices on our plate while coating it in a buttery herb sauce.  The beef melted in our mouths.  We also enjoyed our different salads:  my wife ordered an asparagus salad which was quite fresh and tender while I went for the heart of lettuce salad.  Meanwhile, the wines…were impressive according to the list we reviewed.  Since we were visiting from Albuquerque and had to drive back, we decided to order by the glass.  Unfortunately, there was only one Cabernet Sauvignon selection by the glass.  Despite that slip up, the service was outstanding, the food was great, and the list by the bottle was outstanding.  I’ll give this place a second chance.  

Editor's note: Alert reader, Ms. Starr M. Clark, checked in to let us know why Wally couldn't find a listing for this restaurant.  He had the wrong name!  According to Starr, "the restaurant is called The Bull Ring Prime Steakhouse.  It is located in the Wells Fargo Plaza on Washington Ave and the phone number is 505.983.3328.  Sal Toloumu is the general manager and would be happy to give you any additional information."   Their website is  Thanks, Starr!

Taos, NM
Doc Martin’s
Taos Inn
125 Paseo Norte
Taos, NM 87571
Located in the Taos Inn in the center of Taos, NM, Doc Martin’s is named after the physician who held court within the walls of the restaurant (when it was a doctor’s office).  The food was great, and the wine list was better.  I was impressed by the number of verticals of certain wines.  More than 14 selections were available by the glass.  A definite choice for dining and wining while in Taos.

New York, NY
80 Spring St.
New York, NY 10012
WinoWally attended a business dinner at Balthazar's.  He was speechless.  Here's what Digital City had to say about it.
"Arguably the trendiest of the trendy new restaurants of 1997/1998, this artfully recreated (leather banquettes, patinaed mirrors) traditional French brasserie is elbow-to-elbow with moguls, models, movers-and-shakers and wannabes...  The food is solid along classic bistro lines, with such dishes as whole roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, or striped bass over toasted bread infused with a tomato-Swiss chard broth. The sublime oyster and shellfish bar is one of the biggest around. The 200+ wines on the list wash down plenty of good eats. Baked in the adjacent Balthazar Bakery, the bread is superb. If you can't score a reservation, go for a post-midnight supper or a drink at the bar that winds down at 3 or 4 a.m."

New York, NY
Felidia Restorante
243 East 58th Street
New York, NY 10022
Located in a former townhouse on a block in Midtown which boasts at least 12 restaurants, Felidia was worth the trip.  The menu favored seafood and pasta.  I ordered the Mediterranean sea bass, which was brought to my table whole, and I was given the choice of having it filleted or not.  It was filleted and it was great!  It may have been the most moist, fresh sea bass that I have ever eaten.  My appetizer was a fresh spaghetti squash with goat cheese and it was excellent as well.  The wine list was superb.  Unfortunately, my host ordered a rather humdrum bottle of Chianti Classico, which was too subdued for the selections.  I’d recommend this place for a smaller, quieter place to go in the middle of the world’s most dynamic city.

New York, NY
JUdson Grill
152 W. 52nd St.
New York, NY 10019
Before I entered the doors of the JUdson Grill, I was curious about the unique spelling of its name.  However, in the spirit of joining my group of 12 for dinner, I forgot to ask the hostess about the spelling.  The Grill is quite a trendy place in Midtown, is appointed with all the latest in contemporary California look decorations and furniture.  I was disappointed with the breadth of the menu and the wine list.  I wasn’t in the mood for a steak, but everything on the menu was so strange sounding that I opted for the aged sirloin.  For starters, I thought I would play it safe with the short rib soup.  The gamble paid off:  the soup was delicious!  It was also very filling.  I was asked to select the wine for the table.  There was a page of “auction” wines, which were $250/bottle on average.  I didn’t want to order from this since I was buying.  I didn’t like the meager selection of Cabernet Sauvignon’s so I opted for the 1999 Zinfandel from Paso Robles.  It was spicy, not too overbearing or alcoholic and just what the doctor ordered.  If you want a unique dining experience in New York, bag this place.  If you want a fun bar with decent food, check it out.  By the way, the spelling reflects the old style way its phone number was described, as in JUdson 2 –5252.

New York, NY

24 W. 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
Make reservations online at this restaurant at
On a recent business excursion, I was treated to dinner at Michael’s by a corporate attorney with the same first name.  I complimented him on his choice of restaurants and kidded about his ego and why he named the restaurant after himself.  He informed me that it wasn’t the case.  The proprietor is a gentleman named Michael McCarty who founded the Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica, CA.  That, of course, explained the modern art throughout the restaurant including the nude bronzes in the foyer (must have been some great models!).  Michael’s cuisine is very Californian with light pastas, wood grilled seafood and steaks.  The wine list was superb, focusing on California reds (a Wino John choice).  However, I chose to order a Chateauneuf du Pape which was excellent.  This place seemed to be frequented by a number of business types, but I’d recommend it as a place to take your spouse or date.  Quiet, out of the way, relaxing, with great food and wines.   Wino Wally

New York, NY
160 E. 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
When I don’t have an urge to visit a special restaurant that I’ve visited in the past, I usually ask the concierge at my hotel to recommend a restaurant with a great wine list.  Such was the case this past week in New York.  The concierge steered my two associates and me to Patroon, just two blocks away from our hotel.  A quick glance at the menu and all three of us decided to order steaks.  Interestingly, we each ordered something different:  an aged sirloin, a filet, and a Delmonico.  After the plates were served, we shared some of each cut to compare.  While each selection was prepared medium rare, the meats had their own distinctive and awesome taste.  Meanwhile, I had recently written a piece about the Tempranillo grape used in Rioja wine.  We asked the sommelier for a bottle of his best Rioja.  He proudly brought us a 1995 Muga Reserve.  He stated that the 1995 was tough to find, but he believed it to be the best Rioja available.  We enjoyed the first bottle so much, we ordered another.  Kudos to the chef and kudos to the wine steward!  If you’re dining in midtown Manhattan, check this place out.

New York, NY
ROC Restaurant
190 E. Duane
Duane at Greenwich
New York, NY
ROC is literally on the last corner that you can travel to before hitting ground zero in lower Manhattan.  The weather was warm and a number of people were dining on its outside patio.  The food is Italian Continental.  I had a daily special, Osso Bucco.  The veal practically pealed off the bone, was tender and succulent.  The essence was flavorful and the tomato fresh and light.  My coworker had fresh Chilean Sea Bass which he said was awesome.  We ordered a bottle of Tignanello 1997.  I can't find a rating for the 1997, but Parker rates the 1998 a 91 and says it doesn't match the 1997.  Tignanello is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  This baby was a full-bodied, tannin-laden mensch.  If Wino Bob doesn't seek a bottle of this berry fruit, toasty oak, chewy, luscious wine for his BIG RED collection, he's missing one.  WinoWally

New York, NY
Sea Grill
19 W. 49th St.
Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10020
Located beside the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, this restaurant offers a seafood-oriented menu.  Our table of six ordered four different selections:  salmon, duck, sea bass, and crab cakes.  Everyone raved about the presentation and quality of the food.  I enjoyed my salmon.  The staff was polite, the view was unique, but I thought the prices were a little steep.  The cheapest wine by the glass was $13.

New York, NY
Sparks Steakhouse

210 E. 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
I recently had the good fortune to be invited for dinner at Sparks Steakhouse.  When I asked my host about the restaurant’s reputation, his comment was that this was the restaurant where John Gotti jumped to the head of the mob by having Paul Castellano bumped off on the sidewalk outside.  I said, ok, different reputation, but what’s the food and wine like?  His answer was good.  After my dinner, my answer would be great!  Walking into the restaurant, before I spotted the Wine Spectator Grand Award winner plaques, I spotted the largest collection of Methuselahs, Jeroboams, Magnums, etc. that I had ever seen.  Everything is this restaurant is big.  The menu is big, the wine list is big, and the servings of food are big.  I ordered one of the house specials for an appetizer.  It was fresh sliced tomatoes with a house special dressing.  Delicious!  Had to get a steak, so I ordered the 24 ounce Porterhouse.  Unbelievable!  For those of you who have had to suffer the misfortune of ordering a steak at a national chain house which won’t go below medium due to their lawsuit concerns, that ain’t a concern here.  I ordered mine medium rare and it was perfect!  The wine list was about the longest I’ve seen (excluding Berns’ in Tampa).  My host ordered Silver Oak Cabernet, 1996.  Just released in February, this Cab had been unobtainable from my local purveyor.  As usual, quite good.  An excellent choice if you’re looking for steak or lobster.     Wino Wally

Portland, OR 97210
Il Fornaio

115 NW 22nd Ave.
Portland, OR 97210
When you walk into Il Fornaio, it's like walking into the old country. The restaurant includes a café and bar area done in gleaning white tiles, a sun room with a retractable roof for the rare gorgeous days in Portland, and a dining room with lots of wood, fireplaces, and stunning large old photographs. This restaurant is part of a California-based chain, but the service and cuisine do not feel like you're part of a chain. According to the locals, the best reason for coming here is the bread.  However, when we were there, items such as spit-roasted rabbit wrapped in pancetta and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and served on wild greens graced the menu. For lighter meals the designer pizzas are enticing, and the pastas usually dependable. The wine list is impressive with many hard-to-find California and Oregon wines available.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Le Bec-Fin  
This place has been around forever, but keeps serving up memorable dinners and boasts an extraordinary wine list. Recently tied for 11th in Wine Spectator's top US restaurants.

Pawley's Island, South Carolina
This hole in the wall off of route 17 is one of the local's best kept secrets. Reservations are tough to get on weekends, but during the week, it's possible. Look for some of the hard to find reserve wines.

Washington, Virginia
Inn at Little Washington  
It's a bit of a drive from Washington, DC (approximately 70 miles). I'd advise you to hire a limo if you can't get a room at the Inn. Amazingly, this place has approximately 8 rooms, all of which are severely pimped out since they're outfitting by a designer who assisted with the decoration of the London Opera. If you can get a room, take the wife or the significant other. You'll be on her "A" list for a long time. I'd recommend this place for that special anniversary. My wife enjoyed all of the food selections. Make your reservations far in advance as this place also hit the Wine Spectator top ten list.

Washington, DC
Capital Grille  
601 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Shortly after opening, this clubby steakhouse on the Capitol end of Pennsylvania Avenue established itself as the power restaurant of choice for congressional Republicans. The menu is much like that of any other up-scale steakhouse---massive cuts of aged beef, giant lobsters, cottage fries and creamed spinach. The beef is displayed in the windowed walk-in refrigerator near the entrance and is equal to the quality of that at such other famed steakhouses as Morton's, the Palm, and Ruth's Chris. The service I found to be superior to the above named steakhouses.  The bar's wide open for cigar aficionados.  If you can get a table in the wine room, do it.  The wine list has an excellent selection of French and California bottles featuring over 300 wines.  Wine bins are available for rental, many of which go to some of the nation's powerhouse politicians.  A find for anyone who enjoys a great meal, great wine, and ambiance oozing power.

Washington, DC
The Caucus Room
401 Ninth St. NW
Washington, DC 20004 
Billing itself as a nonpartisan restaurant---two of the principals are Democrat Tom Boggs and former RNC chairman Haley Barbour---The Caucus Room proves yet again that Washington can accommodate another high-brow destination for the kind of folks whose faces turn up regularly on C- SPAN and the night's news.  We liked the blackened grouper on brioche with the very peppery coating on the fish---will set you back a fair amount of change. Take heart, though; as the waiter warned, portions are very generous, indeed, so a little can go a long way. Include a soup or salad to start---the Caesar is ambitious with loads of cheese and buttered toast for croutons---but other choices include a seafood timbale with lobster and lump crab meat or Maryland crab cakes. In for the long haul? You might prefer herb-crusted Chilean sea bass or the filet mignon medallions. On tap for dessert, you may find chocolate cake, coconut cake, ice cream in different flavors and bread pudding. The dinner menu stars more seafood and red meat, and of course, larger prices, but not sandwiches. Most dinner entrées are available throughout the day. Breads are wonderful. The coffee is accompanied by real lump sugar and tongs, and the service is deferential. A must restaurant, if you like rubbing elbows with power brokers.

Anacortes, WA
Nantucket Inn
3402 Commercial
Anacortes, WA 98221
Washingtonians (the West Coast kind) are certainly familiar with Anacortes as it's the departure and return point for many boaters, both sailors and stinkpotters. While in Anacortes, we highly recommend dining at the Nantucket Inn. Although the Inn has a fine reputation as a bed and
breakfast, Lynda and Doug Bransford have developed a following for the restaurant's cuisine and wine menu. As you might expect, seafood is
featured on the menu and the salmon and swordfish that we sampled recently were excellent. While the wine menu focused on mainly US varietals, we settled on an excellent Washington state wine from Chateau St. Michelle.


Seattle, Washington
Tulio Restaurante

1100 Fifth Avenue
Seattle (downtown)

Remember the Renee Zellwigger line “You had me at hello”.  The sweet potato gnocchi at Tulio’s is to die for.  I could have bagged the rest of my dinner with another order.  The sweet potato nicely complimented the cheese, garlic, and cinnamon (yes, I think there was a hint of cinnamon) and the dish melted in my mouth.  It was so good that my companions had to steal a bite.  The halibut ordered by my friends was excellent as was my sea bass which was listed on the menu under its Italian name.  The waitress offered to debone it at the table and was quite skilled at undertaking that mission.

While the wine by the glass list at Tulio’s is not as broad as I have experienced elsewhere, the wine list is impressive.  After reviewing my choices, I settled on a 2001 Tignanello.  Ah, Tignanello, one of the Super Tuscans that one can only enjoy when dining on an expense account or someone else’s tab.  Flavorful and good to the last drop, the bottle lived up to its billing.

It was a Monday night (not the best in the restaurant biz) and the crowd was a little sparse at Tulio’s, but the food was great, wait staff was great, the atmosphere was intimate, and the wine was great.  I’d recommend this place to anyone looking for an Italian restaurant in downtown Seattle.

Didn't find the restaurant or the city that you were looking for?  The following links will give you additional insight into wine-friendly restaurants:

Digital City

PassportNY - Here you can order the 2001 pocket guide entitled Passport to New York Restaurants written by Wine Spectator auction correspondent Peter D. Meltzer and tabletop designer Amy Meltzer. The guide sells for $11.95 or you can download a digital version for $9.95. Definitely a must for New Yorkers.  Riedel has introduced a Restaurant Search facility on their web site.  You can look up the details of a restaurant near you which uses Riedel Crystal. This will give you a chance to explore for yourself the difference that Riedel glasses make to your enjoyment of fine wines and other beverages.

If you have a favorite restaurant with a wino-worthy cellar, drop us a line and we'll share your treasured little secret with the rest of the world, thus ruining your chances of getting your special table ever again.


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