980 Queen St. E.
A laid-back foray into the world of wine awaits on the other side of the Don River. The people at Skin + Bones, a Leslieville wine bar and resto that opened in late November, espouse that what you drink is just as important as what you eat, and you don’t need to be a viticulture expert to determine what you like. The pared-down dining room and bar is helmed by co-owners Harry Wareham and Australian expat Daniel Clarke (combined, they have 30 years of experience in the hospitality biz, both formerly of Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse, Enoteca Sociale and Pizzeria Libretto among other establishments). With a perpetually rotating list of 100 wine labels, determined, in part, by sommeliers Michelle Ratzlaff and Peter Boyd (the latter of Scaramouche), Wareham and Clarke say Skin + Bones struck a chord with downtown and west-end bartenders, servers and chefs.
The vibe: Believe the name. Skin + Bones is a wide-open space that formerly housed a Jaguar auto parts shop, stripped down for a minimalist, industrial look. White exposed brick, deep burgundies and darkly varnished bar tops and reclaimed wood tables warm the place up enough to welcome patrons while letting the wine and food do the talking. Under the I-beams which bear the weight of the century-old building, black and white stills of the four-month renovation (shot by Clarke’s girlfriend, a photography student) and arc-welded metalwork by local artisan Andre Milne give the walls some extra pop.
The drinks:Meat-and-potato people can try the full-bodied Paolo Bea San Valentino Rosso Umbria 2007 (Umbria, Italy: $ 10.50 for 3 oz., $ 21 for 6 oz. $ 83 bottle) or Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec 2010 (Ynez Valley, Calif.: $ 9.50, $ 20, $ 79) while the chicken-or-fish sort may feel at home with the Roque Sestière Corbières Blanc Carte Noire Domaine 2011 (Languedoc, France: $ 6.50, $ 13, $ 51). Drinking with an idea to snack later? Servers may start you off with Juve y Camps Cava Reserva Cinta Purpura, 2009 (Penedes, Spain: $ 7, $ 12, $ 58) or Rosé Cremant De Bourgogne L. Vitteaut-Alberti NV (France: $ 9, $ 14, $ 70). If you’re in a “why not?” kind of a mood, try the Mareotis Domaine Viret 2007 (Saint Maurice Rhône, France, $ 88 for a bottle).
Cocktails include the Paper Plane (Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol and lemon, $ 12 for 3 oz.), while beer drinkers can enjoy craft tall cans (Double Trouble’s Hops and Robbers and Rogue Brewery’s Dead Guy Ale, $ 6 each).
The food: The undisputed champ, according to chef Matthew Sullivan, is the Crispy Chicken Tail snack with potato salad ($ 6), while Chicken and Wine (a slow-cooked half-chicken with rutabaga purée and celery in a white wine sauce, $ 19) is the top main. Beef Cheek Bourguignon with sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichoke), Perth bacon, roasted mushrooms and red-wine onions is the beefiest dish at $ 23.
Dress code: Casual.