Best Wine Garden - 2010
The Map Room
Nestled in Benton Park on the corner of Withnell and Lemp avenues, the Map Room might be the ghost of Charles Dickens' favorite coffee house, a nineteenth-century-style salon that's almost too perfectly appointed with antique sofas, vintage glass and, of course, maps. But the museum fussiness disappears on the back patio, a wide space covered with soft gravel and bounded by a wood fence and a long brick wall. The umbrellas over a half-dozen tables are hardly necessary, as an ancient, broad-leafed tree shades the entire garden. Sharing a bottle of Madeira and a basket of fruit and cheese beneath this tree is rapturous, as is splitting a tall carafe of limoncello-spiked iced tea or cranberry-orange sangria while musing on secret cafés in Portugal. The Map Room's wine garden is terra incognita you need to discover.