Editor's note: Here is today's dining report. Drop-In Dining is a report about a new or new-to-us restaurant published in the TNT's Friday GO section. Reporters drop in unannounced and sample the food, on the TNT's dime, then report to you what the scene and food was like. Have a suggestion for a drop-in dining feature? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cork! Wine Bar
Where: 3012 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-212-1492; www.corkwinebars.com
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday hours are listed as "4 p.m. to close."
Price Range: $ (under $14)
By Niki Sullivan
The scene: Cavernous wine bar with candle-lit cafe tables. During our Saturday evening dining visit, Cork! started out nearly empty and, by about 9:30 p.m., was comfortably occupied. Live weekend music can be pleasant or a conversation killer, depending on where you're seated.
Type of food: Wine, wine, and more wine, complemented by small bites to suit either modest appetites or ample orderers.
Dishes sampled: We sampled several small plates – the only kind of plates at Cork! – and three different wine flights, which include four 2-ounce pours of wine. Small plates range from $4 for a mixed salad to $14 for a five-cheese plate. Most are around $6-$9. Wine flights are $11, and by-the-glass prices vary.
The food: La Brea artisan bread with sun-dried tomato balsamic and basil garlic Parmesan dipping oil for starters. We also ordered the Mediterranean Dip Trio, which has (apparently not homemade) bruschetta, roasted garlic hummus and olive tapenade, and the Antipasti Plate with cured meat, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and artichoke hearts.
However, the bread-to-toppings ratio was off. In other words, our table didn't have enough bread to suit the toppings. We ordered additional bread and the six small, toasted slices arrived a few minutes later – for $2.
Biggest mistake: We didn't order a salad, as it didn't seem the most shareable thing for a group. They offer a Caprese and green salad, both standard wine bar fare, for $6 and $4, respectively. Next time.
Biggest success: The $8 "signature flatbread" – with goat cheese, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, artichoke hearts and pesto – was a good call. It was just big enough for each of us to have two 2-inch square pieces of the slimmed down cousin-of-pizza.
Dessert: New York-style cheesecake drizzled with raspberry purée and a slice of chocolate torte. The former was still frozen a bit in the middle, and the latter sated our appetite for a sweet end to the meal.
Wine: Two of us sampled the "Big Red Blends" flight, which includes, well, you can guess. Another ordered the "Forgive Me For I Have Zinned" flight, which had some snappy wines to compensate for the name. The fourth diner ordered "Girl's Night Out." Between the group, that was 12 different wines to sample and discuss. Flight pours are served on a piece of paper with a short description of each wine – a real help.
Service: Just like in wine country, the service was a bit slow. But unlike (some places in) wine country, service was very friendly. Cork! bills itself as an unpretentious wine bar, and we saw nothing to dispute that.
Most unexpected moment: Our dinner company's months-old son slept through the amplified musical guest for the night. The lesson: Children are allowed in the restaurant, but on live music nights, don't sit near the front unless you're really into smooth jazz (or whatever is playing).
Nice surprise: Cork! offers bottles of wine at take-home prices, so the party can continue at home, which suited us well.
Pictured here: Shana Zimmerman, a co-owner of Cork! Wine Bar, displays some of the new cafe's food offerings. Photo by Craig Sailor/The News Tribune