Most wine lists offer novices too much choice, too little guidance. But three new food-and-wine specialists delightfully pair dish and drink. Salud!
Austin: Emilia’s, 600 E. Third St., (512) 469-9722
Emilia’s makes a scene-stealing entrance onto the Austin eats stage, occupying an atmospheric 1852 building of stone walls and wood floors, with a separate carriage house lodging the bar. Chef Will Packwood has townies raving about the blue crab bisque, foie gras in “au torchon,” and bacon-wrapped skate wing. This is fine dining worth the calories, but do tear yourself away from the table long enough to tour the handsome wine cellar housing an impressive 7,500 bottles.
Chicago: D’Vine Restaurant & Wine Bar, 1950 W. North Ave., (773) 235-5700
Chicago’s funky Wicker Park neighborhood hosts the vino-centric D’Vine, which dishes up worth-the-trek fare at wallet-friendly prices. Chef Michael Kerwin presides over stove and cellar, offering four French-inflected courses for $50. If you desire, he’ll expertly pair each course with the appropriate wines for a mere $20 more. Desire it. From beet and goat cheese salad to peppered ostrich tenderloin, Kerwin knows how to wine-complement a meal.
San Francisco: Bacar, 448 Brannan St., (415) 904-4100
Another SoMa district standout, Bacar draws wine lovers by the droves with 100 wines by the glass and a 1,000-strong bottle list, much of it amassed in a three-story wine wall. Impressed? Stick around for the food from chef/owner Arnold Eric Wong. It’s designed to please grazers with its unusual appetizers (wok-fried sardines, boar sausage) and wood-fired pizzas, as well as those with more serious appetites (try the lamb T-bone). Finish with a wine-friendly cheese course. -