For more than 20 years, Coeur d’Alene’s Wine Cellar has been a grownup place (no children’s menu here) to enjoy fine, mostly Italian-influenced food, live blues and more than 300 wine varieties in a subterranean locale made all the more charming by flickering candles, exposed brickwork and decades of good memories.
Since 1992, when restaurateur Jim Duncan created it as a waiting-area for his other place, Jimmy D’s Cafe (the current home of Pita Pit), the Wine Cellar defined fine-dining downtown. But in 2010, when Tom and Patricia Powers took over, locals buzzed — and not from an excess of wine.
The Powers, longtime Cellar patrons, carefully preserved the restaurant’s charm with only subtle tweaks like street-side dining and a tapas menu. Business thrived, yet was limited by the Lilliputian, 300-square foot kitchen — eight burners, no broiler, no oven.
So, this summer the Powers re-opened in the huge and hugely-renovated, two-story former Brix Restaurant a few doors west on Sherman Avenue. Again with the buzz.
“Change is hard,” admits manager Naomi Boutz, the last server Duncan hired before selling to the Powers, who also own Sunshine Minting.
It was worth the risk, however. The cellar expanded to 3,000 bottles, says Boutz, who — like a stockbroker — takes guesswork out of wine for their roughly 100 wine club members. Also new is a self-serve, wine dispensing machine that allows one-, two- or six-ounces (you buy a card that tracks purchases).
The new Cellar doubled its seating, added a full bar and gained a state-of-the-art kitchen, including a wood-fired oven for rustic pizzas like the Med, with artichoke, Feta and roasted tomatoes ($12). Some recipes survived intact — baked apple Brie ($8) and lamb osso bucco ($18) — while others, like the roasted chicken marsala ($16), were updated. Newcomers include the linguine vongole, consisting of clams, mussels and spicy sausage in a creamy red sauce ($16), and biatola salad with candied roasted beets, Gorgonzola and toasted almonds ($6/$9).
Up next is a new website, a Northwest-themed menu and a focus on sustainability.
“Our goal is to work with businesses that are socially and environmentally conscious, more of a local and organic,” said Boutz.
The Wine Cellar Bistro and Wine Bar • 313 S. Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene • Open Mon-Thu, 4:30-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 4:30 pm-midnight; Sun, 4:30-9 pm