Bonterra just works. It's so-called fine dining, but there is little pretense here. And that's quite a thing to say about a restaurant housed in an old church that offers hundreds of wines by the glass. But it's true. Exec Chef Blake Hartwick's menu, which shifts seasonally, has always been simple relative to other contemporary cuisine spots. There are usually no more than three or maybe four well-chosen ingredients on a plate, and the fanciest piece of kitchen equipment is a wood-burning oven (albeit one built by Southwestern Native Americans). Heck, the signature (and, in our humble opinion, overrated) menu item is something you can probably get at the Portland, Maine, county fair: fried lobster tail.
Bonterra on the Cheap
If you're set on trying the fried lobster tail, skip the $45 entrée and get the $17 appetizer. The Bonterra experience—unpretentious elegance -- can be had at the wine bar. Ask the bartender for a wine rec—feel free to ask for a taste—and pair it with some cheese ($4 per). Or drop by late to sample Pastry Chef Celeste Reynolds's creations. The Chocolate Molten Cake with coconut ice cream and chocolate-dipped biscotti ($7) sounds about right.
1829 Cleveland Ave., 704-333-9463, bonterradining.com