Dining on a Shoestring: Screwtop Wine Bar

This new wine bar offers good-value dining.

At Clarendon’s Screwtop Wine Bar, locals have come to appreciate the friendly face of former AOL exec Wendy Buckley, who offers interesting wines alongside homespun recipes at her new restaurant/gourmet shop. Her mother-in-law’s meatloaf sandwich influenced her version ($13), which swaps buffalo for beef and is made juicy and flavorful with bacon and sun-dried tomatoes. A French onion melt ($10), with cave-aged Gruyère and caramelized onions, was another worthy handful. The other half of the four-sandwich menu was less successful: a prosciutto-and-mozzarella sandwich ($11) would have been good, but a thick smear of sun-dried-tomato paste hijacked the flavors, and chicken-and-goat-cheese panini ($11) tasted mostly of pesto.

Much of the menu is shareable. A spinach salad ($9.50) topped with bacon, candied walnuts, and blue-cheese dressing is large enough for four as an appetizer. The heart-shaped grilled-cheese sliders ($9.50) made with Gouda, Parmesan, and Brie weren’t as flavorful as that onion melt but were saved by a nice crock of creamy tomato dip.

Buckley worked at the Del Ray shop Cheesetique, and her cheese board (three selections for $16, six for $29) is laden with generous hunks chosen from categories such as “Fresh and Bright” and “Whoa Nelly” (the stinkier ones). Be careful of the straight-from-a-jar accompaniments, including onion chutney and a fig spread, which at $3.50 a pop can add up.

Wines and desserts further boost the bill, but the pecan-topped Texas sheet cake ($6.50)—another dish big enough to divide four ways—is a sweet way to finish.

Open Tuesday through Thursday for dinner, Friday and Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and limited dinner.