Some partnerships—Fred and Ginger, Holmes and Watson, Rocky and Bullwinkle—seem predestined for greatness. Such was the case with Jeff and Jill Van Horne. Jeff, a wine collector, married his talents with Jill's gourmet cooking to create The Wine Loft, where their chemistry translates into delicious food and drink pairings. Stepping inside is akin to joining one of their dinner parties, with fellow guests lounging on sofas throughout the space and ordering cocktails or beer from the full bar.
Of course, the starring libation is wine. The cellar below the restaurant can store close to 2,000 bottles at a steady 58 degrees. More than 200 wines arrive at tables by the bottle, and 75 can be poured by the glass, complementing a variety of small plates and entrees. If you aren't sure what libation would best bring out the flavor of your lamb lollipops, servers gladly assist—or, you could attend one of The Wine Loft's wine education classes. These meet monthly to cover topics such as matching wine with chocolate or observing proper wine etiquette, which dictates that whomever uncorks the bottle must plant the cork and raise the resultant tree.
Ed Sbragia of the Sbragia Family Vineyards is famous for his chardonnay and cabernet. Included in the Sbragia Family Vineyards tastings are two varietals: Home Ranch chardonnay ($26.99/bottle) and Andolsen Vineyard cabernet sauvignon ($35.99/bottle). From his experience at Beringer, Ed Sbragia also knows the inner grape workings of dozens of other varietals, knowledge applied to the creation of the three other tastable bottlings: the Home Ranch sauvignon blanc ($20.99/bottle), Home Ranch merlot ($26.99/bottle), and Gino's Vineyard zinfandel ($28.99/bottle).
Permeated with casual elegance, The Wine Gallery festoons its eclectic menu with classic bistro fare in the form of flavorful salads, soups, sandwiches, and specialties. Let the nibbling commence with starters of chips, dips, spreads, breads, and more, such as the cheese plate, a tour de fromage sidekicked by gourmet crackers and olives ($9), or its smokehouse doppelgänger ($9). Like a whole-wheat aqueduct, the mushroom-spinach pizza siphons a steady stream of silver-dollar mushrooms, mozzarella, feta, and provolone ($8). Chew through an English hedge maze of panko-coated eggplant caprese salad, with mozzarella, tomato, and basil ($5 half, $9 full), then celebrate victory with the succulent, spice-rubbed prime-rib sandwich ($8) or Italian basil-chicken sandwich ($8).
Taste Creative Cuisine entertains eardrums and taste buds at the same time by presenting a menu full of contemporary twists on classic Southern cooking and regular sets of live jazz. Like carving a family chicken dinner with a laser-knife, the food roster modernizes mainstays of country-style dining. Fried chicken rests atop sweet-potato waffles, creamy aioli garnishes Cajun catfish sandwiches, and artichoke butter sauce adds flavor to cornmeal-breaded walleye pike. Handcrafted cocktails complement the Louisiana-fusion fare, as muted jazz trumpets, wailing saxophones, and standup comics keep audiences dancing and laughing into the night.
Craig and Laura Decker seem to have a difficult time making up their minds. They also seem to have a knack for turning this indecisiveness into an advantage at every turn. When it came to opening their new business, for example, they briefly wondered whether it should feature a wine shop, a wine bar, or a gourmet bistro. Their solution? All three.
This spirit of inclusivity pervades W.G. Kitchen & Bar, a Wine Guy company, where the Deckers pair seasonal wine varietals with globally inspired cuisine. Rather than choose between European elegance and New-American pizzazz, they settled on a compromise they describe as “Old World chic.” This label suits a menu that features small plates of housemade meatballs and bruschetta alongside assorted cheeses from around the world. The focus on small plates is in keeping with the Deckers’ have-it-all mentality and gives diners the option to sample several dishes without having to barter with adjacent tables.