January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

A sunny, sophisticated wine bar and bistro.

No. 73: Grapeseed

Who would expect to find the area’s best s’more in a wine bar? Yet here it is: a warm, crumbly brownie sitting in graham-cracker cream and topped with a thick cap of perfectly browned house-made marshmallow—the kind of dessert you smile about the next day.

Jeff Heineman’s Northern California–inspired wine bar is about more than upscale nostalgia food, but his s’more sums up the chef’s aim—food that’s tasty, a little trendy, and not too challenging; cilantro-scented salt or molasses gastrique are as out there as the kitchen gets. So on quiet nights you’ll find solo diners at the blond-wood bar tucking into pan-roasted half chicken with marcona almonds and swabbing truffled frites in garlic aïoli, and on weekends decked-out twentysomethings hanging out over small plates of lush miso-braised Kurobuta pork, crispy tilapia with citrus vinaigrette, a mushroom fricassee, or cornmeal-crusted oysters.

Grapeseed has done well by its wines despite Montgomery County’s liquor laws. There are 100 selections available by the glass or the three-ounce tasting pour; the claret-and-plum walls are decorated with vintage Italian liquor posters, corkscrews, and colored bottles. The menu quotes oenophiles like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Dumas and suggests pairings with every dish. Who knew that tawny port goes so well with marshmallow and chocolate?

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