When Cheesetique opened in its new location last month, one of the most exciting developments was not yet in place. As I mentioned in my write-up, proprietor Jill Erber's big plans for the new space included a cheese & wine bar at the rear of the shop. This week, those plans came to fruition with a Tuesday night opening.
Fans of the cheeses and charcuterie sold at Cheesetique can now enjoy them paired with wines by the glass in a casual dining environment. Reminiscent of a small bistro or cafe, the space is dominated by a white marble bar that runs the length of the left-hand wall. Behind the bar, large smoked-glass mirrors and red shelves give the space a warm and friendly character. The remainder of the cozy dining area features table seating (marble makes another appearance on the unadorned tabletops) for roughly thirty guests at any given time.
And those guests are in for a treat. Chef Cat's menu goes beyond meats and cheeses in delicious, if predictable ways. Several salads and sandwiches are available at very reasonable prices, with none of the entree offerings coming in over $10. Artisanal quiches and panini featuring a variety of fillings will rotate on and off of the menu on a regular basis - the prosciutto panini we ate on our visit was definitely a highlight of the meal. And the gazpacho that accompanies the upscale grilled cheese packs a delicious chili pepper heat in with the crisp, cool chunks of cucumber that swim in the tomato base. The soup is available on its own for $3, a bargain compared to standard restaurant fare.
Even so, the stars of the show are naturally the meats, cheeses and wines that you would expect to feature prominently in this setting. Though you might anticipate the entire catalog of cheeses to be avialable in the bar, there is actually a small but diverse selection of ten different cheeses. They are featured on the Cheese Cart that stands at the ready beside the bar and can be wheeled to your table to show off the goods. Our choices included a triple-cream brie, a honey goat cheese, a raw-milk aged cheddar, and a pair of blue cheeses among others - enough to give us pause, but not as many options as we might have hoped.
These cheeses can be enjoyed on their own or in groups, and they come served with fresh, crusty bread. If you're looking to make a more substantial plate, a variety of charcuterie choices are also available. They range from the familiar (prosciutto, soppresata) to the more unique (lomo - a cured, pressed pork loin that was rich and flavorful). A combination of three cheeses and three meats that comes with cornichons, olives, grainy mustard and bread runs $25, and it is a great way to experience a diverse group of flavors in one sitting. The advice of your server can be invaluable as you try to balance your order - but don't hesitate to focus on your favorites if you know what you like!
Cheesetique's bar offers almost two dozen wines by the glass or the bottle, with prices starting at $7 per glass. They run the gamut from sparkling wines to dessert wines, with a wide range of reds and whites to choose from. Some basic pairing notes are included on the menu, but again your best bet is to ask your server for a recommendation to make sure your pinot noir and your Parrano don't clash. A selection of beers that match up well with cheeses is also available, and the connection between the restaurant and the retail space is reinforced by a 10% discount offered on the purchase of wines that are featured in the cheese bar.
As with any completely new venture, there are still some small kinks to be worked out - the most noticeable is the Cheese Cart's inability to navigate the spaces between some of the tables when filled. Additionally, my wife's order was inadvertently delivered to another table, resulting in her sandwich arriving just as we were finishing my panino. But the service was very friendly and quick to respond, and the team at Cheesetique seems like they are already off to a great start with only one night's service under their belts.
Cheesetique's Cheese & Wine Bar is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 PM to 9 PM, and they do not accept reservations. They are located at 2411 Mount Vernon Avenue, in the heart of Del Ray. Street parking is available, and there is a small lot on the block for patrons.