The California Cafe is a link in a chain out of -- you guessed it -- California, but each outlet can tailor its menu and wine list to the area. The California Cafe at Park Meadows draws its inspiration regionally, with daily specials that highlight the area's indigenous ingredients and fresh produce. Working with company headquarters, general manager Linda Kuhns has assembled a list of all-California wines that complement the food perfectly. Look for a Stonestreet merlot that goes beautifully with lamb sirloin, or a glass of Grgich Hills sauvignon blanc for a post-shopping lunch of ostrich burger and grilled tomatoes. The list is 200 vintages strong and includes some of the best wines our domestic vineyards have to offer, including a particularly delightful Cabernet Sauvignon Page.

Bruno's Italian Bistro
At Bruno's, we rarely take our eyes off the plates filled with marvelous, reasonably priced Italian food. But then one day we ventured into the men's room, and there on the walls were some of the sexiest shots of Sophia Loren ever taken -- old Saturday Evening Post covers and Life magazine photos -- all poses that invite men to hang out in the facilities for a while, if you know what we mean. Mama mia! Owner Tom Mirabito's mother-in-law knew of his obsession with Loren, and when she found this collection at a flea market, she snatched it up, in the process giving Bruno's the best-dressed men's room in town. So far, though, the ladies haven't gotten equal time. "We've been talking over the past three years about who to put in there," says Mirabito. "Some of the younger ones want Leonardo DiCaprio, but the older ones like Dean Martin. Maybe Marcello Mastroianni?" Meanwhile, hostess Janet Heritage has been using the space to show her artwork, a collection of watercolors and wax-and-caustic pieces that hang on the walls -- and in the stalls. "I've actually sold a few," Heritage says. "I guess we have kind of a captive audience in there."

At Bruno's, we rarely take our eyes off the plates filled with marvelous, reasonably priced Italian food. But then one day we ventured into the men's room, and there on the walls were some of the sexiest shots of Sophia Loren ever taken -- old Saturday Evening Post covers and Life magazine photos -- all poses that invite men to hang out in the facilities for a while, if you know what we mean. Mama mia! Owner Tom Mirabito's mother-in-law knew of his obsession with Loren, and when she found this collection at a flea market, she snatched it up, in the process giving Bruno's the best-dressed men's room in town. So far, though, the ladies haven't gotten equal time. "We've been talking over the past three years about who to put in there," says Mirabito. "Some of the younger ones want Leonardo DiCaprio, but the older ones like Dean Martin. Maybe Marcello Mastroianni?" Meanwhile, hostess Janet Heritage has been using the space to show her artwork, a collection of watercolors and wax-and-caustic pieces that hang on the walls -- and in the stalls. "I've actually sold a few," Heritage says. "I guess we have kind of a captive audience in there."

When Sabor Latino moved, it expanded not just its dining space but also its wine list. As a result, there are now more than two dozen wines from Chile and Argentina to choose from; not surprisingly, they all go well with the racy, spicy flavors coming out of the kitchen. The Concha y Toro "Don Melchor" cab has a syrupy black-currant taste; the herby Navarro Correas malbec goes well with Sabor Latino's sweet and salty Caribbean plate. The prices are reasonable, and the selection more than explains why wines from this part of the world are getting so much attention.

When Sabor Latino moved, it expanded not just its dining space but also its wine list. As a result, there are now more than two dozen wines from Chile and Argentina to choose from; not surprisingly, they all go well with the racy, spicy flavors coming out of the kitchen. The Concha y Toro "Don Melchor" cab has a syrupy black-currant taste; the herby Navarro Correas malbec goes well with Sabor Latino's sweet and salty Caribbean plate. The prices are reasonable, and the selection more than explains why wines from this part of the world are getting so much attention.

Le Central
Not only is Le Central's impressive selection of French wines the best in town -- filled with interesting bottles from across France that you won't find elsewhere -- it's also one of the best-priced, with remarkably low markups and most bottles coming in at the $20-to-$30 range. This affordable French bistro is just the place to try a 1997 chablis from Domaine de Varoux, or the 1995 Clos du Roy Fronsac, or something elegant from the Bourgogne. And if you're in the mood to splurge, you're in luck: The 1995 Volnay, say, or that year's Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine des Relagnes. If somehow nothing on the regular roster grabs you, then check out the month's featured wines or one of the excellent house wines, which you can buy by the bottle, the glass, the half-glass, the taste or, most intriguing, the percentage of the bottle that's been consumed. We'll drink to that.

Not only is Le Central's impressive selection of French wines the best in town -- filled with interesting bottles from across France that you won't find elsewhere -- it's also one of the best-priced, with remarkably low markups and most bottles coming in at the $20-to-$30 range. This affordable French bistro is just the place to try a 1997 chablis from Domaine de Varoux, or the 1995 Clos du Roy Fronsac, or something elegant from the Bourgogne. And if you're in the mood to splurge, you're in luck: The 1995 Volnay, say, or that year's Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine des Relagnes. If somehow nothing on the regular roster grabs you, then check out the month's featured wines or one of the excellent house wines, which you can buy by the bottle, the glass, the half-glass, the taste or, most intriguing, the percentage of the bottle that's been consumed. We'll drink to that.

Barolo Grill
Mark Antonation
Blair Taylor spends so much time in Italy, we're surprised he hasn't been made an honorary Italian -- or at least had his estimable Barolo Grill given embassy status. Every summer Taylor takes Barolo staffers to Italy so they can taste the food and wine, and he can check out trends that might be worth incorporating into his restaurant. While he's there, Taylor also spends time honing his wine list, a carefully chosen roster of some of the best vintages Italy has to offer, many of them on the rare side, and all of them interesting -- from the barbarescos and the Piemontese to the Tuscan chiantis and an impressive collection of barolos. They go wonderfully with the finely tuned Italian fare put out by chefs Brian Laird and Jeff Vedovelli -- and the staff, thanks to its Italian summer-school lessons, is full of educated opinions about what works with what.

Blair Taylor spends so much time in Italy, we're surprised he hasn't been made an honorary Italian -- or at least had his estimable Barolo Grill given embassy status. Every summer Taylor takes Barolo staffers to Italy so they can taste the food and wine, and he can check out trends that might be worth incorporating into his restaurant. While he's there, Taylor also spends time honing his wine list, a carefully chosen roster of some of the best vintages Italy has to offer, many of them on the rare side, and all of them interesting -- from the barbarescos and the Piemontese to the Tuscan chiantis and an impressive collection of barolos. They go wonderfully with the finely tuned Italian fare put out by chefs Brian Laird and Jeff Vedovelli -- and the staff, thanks to its Italian summer-school lessons, is full of educated opinions about what works with what.

Mon dieu! The moment this hip, French-inspired restaurant opened, the beautiful people started flocking to the dining room. From there, though, they got a good look at the bar, a cozy yet chic enclave that sports six-foot-high chairs covered in plush fabric with a tilt to the seat, offering extra padding for delicate tushies that have been out clubbing all night; overstuffed lounge chairs and booths for large groups that like to mingle; and a long bar with stools for perching in case you must hop off and hobnob now. Just two months after Sacre Bleu's debut, you can hardly get into the lounge area, which seats fifty and is standing room only on the weekends. But true bar-hoppers will persevere, and their efforts will be rewarded with a varied appetizer menu -- try the scallops and anything with truffles -- as well as an extensive wine and champagne list, drinks prepared by bartenders who look at mixology as both an art and a science, and the best beautiful-people-watching in town.

Readers' choice: Blue 67

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