We're always on the lookout for unique spots to grab a sip and a sup, and recent reconnoiters have uncovered two winners -- one a model of downtown sophistication, the other a rural retreat hidden in the Cuyahoga Valley.
First, the Wonder Bar, one of the newest additions to downtown's East Fourth Street district: Intimate, artful, and open only since August 6, the spot has already accumulated a suave patina that any upscale watering hole would envy. The well-stocked bar specializes in classic cocktails -- including manhattans, side cars, and gin martinis -- while chef Michael Walsh dishes up a small but sassy selection of tapas.
Walsh -- a veteran of Baricelli Inn, Blue Point, and most recently Fahrenheit -- whips up creations that include Camembert mac & cheese, topped with toasty, truffle-scented bread crumbs ($10); succulent roasted chicken wings in a ginger-soy broth ($8); and Cleveland Chili, a bean-free bowl of chicken, crayfish, and tomato, with savory spices ($5). Each is a robust affair, rife with enigmatic flavors. That he accomplishes this in one of downtown's smallest kitchens merely adds to the mystique.
Owned by Vince Cirincione and Rich Cicerchi, the Wonder Bar opens at 5 p.m. daily, with kitchen operation extending until 11 p.m. on weekdays, midnight on weekends; lunch service should launch by the end of the month. Find the spot at 2044 East Fourth Street. Call 216-298-4050 or visit www.wonderbarcleveland.com.
Meantime, in Cuyahoga Falls, we discovered Sarah's Vineyard (1204 West Steels Corners Road), Mike and Margaret Lytz's charming winery and art gallery, open since May. We grabbed an easy-sipping bottle of Sweet Elisa ($12) -- a pink, predictably pop-like blend of Concord and Niagara grapes -- and two paninis: the Market, with olives, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, artichokes, salami, and prosciutto; and a turkey sandwich, with spinach and melty mozzarella (both $7). We then headed out to the secluded deck, where we gorged ourselves on the tastiest tidbit of all -- the bucolic view of vineyard, field, and forest.
Savor it for yourself 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Through September, Wednesdays feature $7 hamburgers, grilled in the butterfly garden. There's also a fabulous-sounding clambake scheduled for October 13. For details, call 330-929-8057 or go to www.sarahsvineyardwinery.com. -- Cicora