Some restaurants have pretty wine lists. Some have very long ones. Some specialize in wines by the glass. But now there's a new idea on the scene: more and more restaurants have their own wine shops. It's an appealing trend on several counts. You can mill around the shelves and pick up a bottle before dinner, paying a corkage fee instead of the full restaurant markup. Or you can try a few wines by the glass before deciding if you want to buy a bottle for your cellar. Sometimes you can even bring home boutique wines that are usually sold only at restaurants.
Of course, liquor laws vary, so some states will never get their own wine shop-restaurants. But where they're not banned, these hybrids are multiplying. There are several in the Bay Area, including the granddaddy, San Francisco's PlumpJack Cafe, which opened in 1994 and is still going strong, with its kitchen now under Keith Luce (a 1997 F&W Best New Chef). The Chicago area has at least four and will soon get Bin 36, a retail store, restaurant and wine-education center dreamed up by Dan Sachs, owner of the award-winning Spruce. Here are five more new outfits where you can have wine with your meal--or get it to go.
WATERSHED Decatur, Georgia
Watershed finally figured out what it wants to be. When it opened in October 1998 in suburban Atlanta, it was slightly schizophrenic, a slick 4,000-square-foot former auto garage with a gift shop, a wine bar, a bakery, a florist, a wine store and a specialty-foods department. Recently, though, the owners (one of whom is Emily Saliers of the folk duo the Indigo Girls) decided to focus on the wine and the food, hiring celebrity chef Scott Peacock. Now Watershed is packed at all hours. Is it Peacock's avant-garde sandwiches like white-truffle chicken salad with sultanas and piñones? The sweet-potato gnocchi so light they seem to float above the plate? The wines that co-owner Susan Owens coaxed from small West Coast producers like Husch and Foris? The smart money says: all of the above.