Cozy candlelight and flickering lanterns cast soft shadows in 55 Degree Wine?s cellar, where waiters eagerly pair customers? palates with weekly rotating wines. Featured on Best of LA Weekly in 2012 for its wine program, the winery stocks more than 2,000 labels, of which up to 60 are spotlighted in the cellar?s monthly lineup of pours. Though most vintages are Italian, ambrosias from Europe, South America, and other far-flung climes find homes in the shop after being tasted and approved by store owners. The thermostat, appropriately set to 55 degrees, helps keep elixirs fresh and patrons comfortable, but guests may wish to bring a sweater or particularly affectionate bear.
The Bodega Wine Bar provides wine lovers a casual setting to share plates and try new wines with friends without requiring a deep grapey understanding. Fluff out your cheeks for a cheese plate's offering of the day's selections paired with crackers, nuts, and quince paste ($13) while sipping a glass of Ferreira tawny porto ($9) or one of Bodega's Private Label wines—a Paso Robles red and a Santa Ynez white ($8). While gargling bored doe merlot ($9/glass), snack on a smoked-turkey panini made with tomato, arugula, pesto mayo, and goat cheese ($10). Various pizzas are also available ($11–$13), and beer, cold sake, and soju cocktails await those who don't like wine but want to keep their tongues from shriveling up into a tongue-raisin.
City Sip tempts guests with a globally focused wine list featuring more than 40 wines by the glass, complemented by a thoughtful menu of cheese, small plates, panini, and more. Swirl, sniff, and sip your way through potable pleasures such as an Alsatian gewürztraminer from Klipfel ($11/glass), a Felino malbec ($12/glass), or another pick from the encyclopedic selection of bubblies, whites, reds, roses, and other vine-based beauties. Like the three-fisted men who harvest the grapes, wine flights provide a one-two-three palate punch, while dessert wines such as a Landskroon morio muscat ($11/glass) gently slap tongues with sweetness. A selection of craft beers including Allagash Curieux ($8) and Eagle Rock Brewery Solidarity ($7), plus a handful of nonalcoholic options, round out the liquid luxuries.
Since 1992, California Canteen has bridged the culinary and cultural gap between Californians and Francophiles with its tasty twist on French bistro Mediterranean fare. French favorites populate the menu. Sample the nicoise salad with tuna steak ($14), beef bourguignon ($17.50), or lamb shank osso bucco ($18.25). Meanwhile, enterprising diners and triumvirates can customize comestibles in the three-course dinner ($20.50 4 p.m.–7 p.m., Sunday-Thursday). Alternately, the lunch menu spins a lighter, two-course remix of the prix fixe ($12.95).
Profiled in the LA Weekly and Minx Society blogs, Cellar 55's Italian-American dishes and fully stocked wine bar quell rumbling stomachs and hydrate parched throats. Diners can peruse a menu inscribed with 14 appetizer options while choosing a savory starter, such as the baked lobster bisque, a pastry puff oozing with cognac-splashed Maine lobster ($12), or the mozzarella-stuffed, bacon wrapped dates ($9). The golden eye specialty pizza layers gooey mozzarella and feta toppings atop sunny-side-up eggs like an optometrist fitting eyeballs with spectacles coated in shredded cheese ($13). The bencotto's ensemble of sliced potatoes and capers pleases vegan palates ($13), and the grilled scallop pizza coats throats with pink sauce speckled with parmesan cheese, herbs, and scallops ($15). Try pours from Cellar 55's diverse white and red wines, including the 2009 soave infused with honeydew melon and a splash of butterscotch ($10/glass), or a 2007 Swanson merlot slowly milked from a cabinet of California tax records.
Like a massive loom, a circular wine rack curves through the dining room of Vinotéque on Melrose, its warps threaded with hundreds of bottles of vintages from around the world. To complement everything from Vermont chardonnays to Chilean cabernet sauvignons, executive chef Sheila R. Gomez serves up a full menu of tapas, cheeses, and decadent desserts, all prepared with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The café's oenophiles also helm weekly sampling sessions and lessons in the garden patio, as the ivy vines creeping up the lattice look on jealously, no one taking any interest in their leaf-flavored liqueur.