I’m no wine connoisseur. That’s not to say I drink Franzia straight from the box, but I do carefully select my grocery store booze primarily based on three factors: cleverness of the name, label design, and, above all, shelf location. The lower, the better.
One could posit that a fairly undiscerning wino such as myself might seem a little out of place at an establishment as fine as Ellerbe Fine Foods, especially since it recently added a wine bar earlier this year. Nevertheless, I decided it was time I finally explored this Near Southside veteran.
Setting foot into Ellerbe one Saturday evening, I immediately felt a sense of warmth and welcome. Open for almost a month, the quaint bar area and its floor-to-ceiling cellar greet you first — after the hostess, of course. My friend and I grabbed high-back stools at the unstained bartop sprinkled with tea lights. We fawned over the adorable teal booth to our left, the wall behind the bar painted with magnolia flowers, and the various shades of subway tiles intermixed beneath our feet.
Ellerbe has been thriving since opening in 2009. Of particular significance to co-owners Molly McCook, executive chef, and Richard King, general manager, who were childhood friends growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, Ellerbe is the name of the street where McCook’s grandparents lived.
The new space required a bit of construction. If McCook and King were able to transform what was once an automotive shop into an award-winning fine-dining establishment, it seems like there’s no challenge they wouldn’t be up for, no change they wouldn’t be willing to embrace. In fact, the West Magnolia Avenue staple with tenure used to close between lunch and dinner. Not anymore. Now, you can sidle up to the bar to indulge in an apéritif, whether a sip, glass, or bottle — no judgment here — before dinner service begins.
The bar menu offers sparing choices of wine by the glass, which tells me their selection must be choice. Even I know you don’t crack open an expensive, quality bottle of wine just to pour a single glass and re-cork it. Varied options meant I found some affordable, exquisite wines.
Because Ellerbe is licensed as a wine retailer, they can’t sell hard liquor. Even so, they’re working on bringing some wine-based cocktails to the menu. When that happens, you can find me glued to that cozy teal settee, a cocktail in each hand.
Usually one for a bold, ultra-dry red, I first quaffed a glass of the Billhook White Blend. My companion followed suit with the Domaine des Valanges Chardonnay. Each was refreshingly light and smooth with a dry finish. A sophisticated palate would have been able to detect a difference between the two. Mine did not — but, damn, if they weren’t delicious.
To satisfy my urge for a red, I then sampled the Castello di Neive Nebbiolo from the northern region of Italy’s boot. Served in a bulbous glass, the pour didn’t look like enough to even get me tipsy. I was mistaken. That scrumptious vino went straight to my cheeks.
While my friend grazed on the yummy San Saba pecan pie, I single-handedly destroyed the warm muffaletta dip, an olive mix made with ham and salami, with a side of fresh vegetables for dipping. The veggies looked like they’d been recently plucked from a garden, which was comforting. I’d return solely for that dip.
Whether or not Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is to blame for fermenting in my mind the myth that upscale restaurants and their personnel are inherently “snooty,” I previously misjudged Ellerbe. With an inviting interior and genuinely friendly staff, this classy purveyor of farm-to-table fare is proof that fine dining doesn’t mean hoity-toity — and you certainly don’t have to be a sommelier to enjoy the selection or atmosphere the place has to offer.
Ellerbe Fine Foods
1501 W Magnolia Av, FW.