15 Places to Drink Wine on the Cheap
I love going out to dinner. I also love wine. Unfortunately my wallet doesn't allow me to indulge in the combination of these pleasures as often as I'd like. With many restaurants marking their wines up more than 150%, the cost of a decent bottle is, in a word, exorbitant. Despite this, the prospect of a restaurant meal without wine just isn't that enticing to me. So what to do?
Because eating in on a permanent basis isn't the solution I'm looking for, I've searched the city for those places that offer good food and affordable wine. What constitutes affordable? Subjective as this term may be, I think a good selection of wines below the $40 mark fits the bill when it comes to dining out. And, of course, decent stuff below $30 is a real bonus.
Here are 15 options where the prices on the wine list aren't going to break the bank for diners on a budget:
Le Paradis, 166 Bedford Rd.
For lovers of wines from the Languedoc region of France, this is the place. This Annex fixture boasts a list that's constantly changing to facilitate new arrivals, most of which can't be found at the LCBO. Perhaps more importantly, there's a hefty dose of delicious offerings in the $35 range and daily selections offered by the glass.
CafĂŠ Taste, 1330 Queen St. West
Unfortunately wine consumption can leave quite the carbon footprint. But, in keeping with this Parkdale wine bar's goal to be environmentally conscious, there's an extensive selection of affordable local wines on offer, many of which are available by both bottle and glass. The artisanal cheese offerings both compliment the wine and allow it to take center stage.
Pizzeria Libretto, 221 Ossington Ave.
Arguably the city's best pizza, this Neapolitan outpost on Ossington may also offer the best deal on a bottle of wine. At under $20, the red and white Umbrian offerings from Morretoni pair well with the no-fuss food and offer a perfect excuse to drink with impunity (save for the hangover). The short list also features a number of other reasonable Italian offerings, all of which can be purchased by the glass, half-litre and bottle.
Weezie's, 354 King St. East
Chef Constance Guitard's food may be the main draw, but this Corktown bistro also features a nice little wine list. With nothing over $50 and plenty under $40, there are ample ways to wash down one of the city's best burgers. Those not up for a full bottle will like the carafes and various by-the-glass options.
Midi Bistro, 168 McCaul St.
As the name suggests, this Baldwin St. bistro offers a list heavy on bottles from the South of France - never a bad thing. These wines are the perfect accompaniment to the French classics that Midi specializes in. While there's great selection in the under $40 range from reliable producers and sub-regions, the by-the-glass offerings are a little on the sparse side.
Niagara St. CafĂŠ, 169 Niagara St.
Owner Anton Potvin makes good use of his sommelier training to fashion a list that offers both rare and (mostly) reasonable gems. For those intimidated by lists featuring lesser known varietals and regions, the servers are happy to help with the selection process. While the list tends to jump above the $50 mark pretty quickly, the well-priced food helps to offset liquid indulgences.
Terroni, Various Locations
The other candidate for best pizza, the different Terroni locations all feature a small number of reasonably priced Italian selections alongside the more expensive stuff. Keep an eye out for their featured regions, which often include affordable options by both the bottle and glass.
The Black Hoof, 928 Dundas St. West
Charcuterie doesn't generally require the most expensive wine be paired with it, so the under $30 bottles of house red and white make great companions with the food at this Dundas West hotspot. Feeling more adventurous? Be sure to check out the bin end list, which often offers good values.
Tati Bistro, 124 Harbord St.
One of the now many restaurants along Harbord between Spadina and Bathurst, Tati gets the nod for most affordable and interesting wine list (nudging out Harbord Room, which is slightly pricier). With a great selection of international offerings in the $40 zone and every wine available by the glass, Tati does wine like a bistro should.
Fat Cat Wine Bar, 331 Roncesvalles Ave.
Although there are only a few selections in and around the $40 mark, Fat Cat makes the list by virtue of its excellent by the glass and half-litre options. With a well-selected and worldly list that pairs well with the Tapas-style menu, this Roncesvalles wine bar is one of the few that actually lives up to such a designation.
Swan, 892 Queen St. West
Don't let the diner-like appearance fool you, this West Queen West eatery offers a number of dishes begging to be paired with wine. Thankfully, their list offers a decent number of tasty options around the $40 mark. Best bet: pair a reasonably priced Chianti with their savory braised short ribs.
Batifole, 744 Gerrard St. East
The small size of this very French restaurant in East Chinatown is not reflected in their selection of wines. Although many of the offerings are above $50, there's a small but smart selection under $40 and some great stuff at $45. As with some of the others on this list, low food prices may permit extra spending on the other half of the meal.
La Palette, 256 Augusta Ave.
While the lengthy and internationally themed beer list takes center stage at this Kensington Market bistro, there remains a small selection of reasonably priced wines, all of which are available by the glass, half-litre and bottle.
Jaipur Grille, 2066 Yonge St.
Indian food can present challenges when it comes to wine pairing, but you won't be lacking in affordable options this Midtown establishment. Jaipur offers an admirable selection of bottles in the $35 range, and ample by-the-glass options. The red wines in particular appear to be chosen with an eye toward standing up to the flavour-rich food.
LCBO, Various Locations
Okay, this might be a bit of a copout, but the best way to save money and still get fabulous wine is to skip restaurants all together. If $35 is considered affordable at a restaurant, think about how far that goes at the various Vintages sections throughout the city. And with such savings, it's easier to justify going all out!
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