The hit movie “Sideways” only reinforced what Michael Reames, one of the owners of the Burgundy Room in Columbus, has known all along: Wine and a sophisticated atmosphere make an irresistible combination. “I saw how successful wine bar concepts were in other cities, so I figured it would go over well here,” he says. He also was entranced with the idea of tapas, or small plates. “We wanted to create an informal, fun environment that stimulates lively conversation.” The Short North, with its eclectic shops and restaurants and artsy milieu “was the ideal location.” When it opened in May 2003, it became immediately popular. Often there’s a line of people outside waiting to get in, especially on weekends.
Its success is the result of a harmonious combination of décor, food, and wine. Painted in deep hues and warm colors, the walls help create an intimate, almost cave-like environment, especially in back, which has a fireplace and sheer curtains and private, circular booths with high-topped tables.
Reames designed the menu with a specific clientele in mind. “We have small portions, which really appeals to women,” he observes. “They make up about 65 percent of our clientele. And where women are, the men will follow.” The menu is divided into small plate portions and “food flights,” which are basically lighter combinations of various offerings.
Much of what’s served up is $10, often less, and is actually plenty to eat. Among the several starters are the baby spinach salad with goat cheese croutons and poppyseed vinaigrette ($6); a thick, hearty cheddar and potato soup with bacon ($6); and the special soup of the day — if you’re lucky, a flavorful but light roasted carrot puree with curry and cumin yogurt ($5). The main courses also cover a wide spectrum and include the almost sweet-tasting fried butternut squash ravioli with braised red cabbage and sage cream sauce ($7); BBQ glazed baby-back ribs with homemade onion relish and waffle-cut potato chips ($10); and for sushi lovers, tuna tartar with ginger wasabi dressing ($9). Desserts provide the sweetest taste of Columbus; many come from local favorites like Pistachio bakery and Jeni’s Fresh Ice Cream.
The wine list is encyclopedic, with recommended pairings for certain plates. Knowledgeable servers can suggest certain pours based on customer preferences. Close to 40 whites and reds from France, Spain, Italy, and California are offered by the glass ($5.25-$13). The approximately 200 bottle selections are reasonably priced, with many in the $30-40 range. Wine flights ($8-$20) consist of samples highlighting a particular grape, region, or style.
Although happy hour is every night, from 4-7 p.m., with $1 off beer and liquor, wines remain the same price. That hardly deters the clientele, which runs the gamut from Baby Boomers to twentysomethings. “More and more people are drinking wine, and at younger ages,” observes Reames. They can anticipate a second Burgundy Room that’s planned for the suburb of Dublin this fall.