For reasons I can't explain, I thought the Downtown wine-bar community was pretty much confined to the areas with the greatest concentrations of people, but the other side of the 5 has its complements to the trade, as well. After all, part of Grape Street goes over that way, and what the heck's more oenological than the word “grape,” except maybe “Thunderbird”? The Wet Stone Wine Bar & Café, that's what—or, more specifically, its flora-inspired metal gate out front. If it hadn't been for that, I might not have even noticed the venue just beyond.
But no harm done. While this spot reflects a lot about its Bankers Hill clime (like the immediate neighborhood, there's nothing terribly dynamic about the décor, except for the cool stone floors), there's a trove of seriously decent stuff inside, not the least of which is the sangria (a super-fruity Spanish wine punch that gained a U.S. foothold at New York's 1964 World's Fair). Five bucks gets you a generous glass of the white kind, replete with the unmistakable taste of fresh mangos. From there, the wine list is fairly sparse, with 20 or so items—but bless the place for its foresight in including a selection from Paso Robles' Tobin James Cellars. At $14 a bottle, the 2007 Chardonnay is the most remarkable bargain since my mechanic replaced all three motor mounts on my car for a hundred bucks.
Wet Stone also features a light menu and its share of cheeses and meats and snacky stuff that pairs well with the wine. To enjoy them, however, you have to go to 1927 Fourth Ave. (between Grape and Fir streets) Tuesdays through Sundays between 5 and 10 p.m.; the place is also open between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. The number is 619-255-2856. That gate may only make the area's desolateness seem more prominent—but like with human beings, it's what's inside that counts.