Best Of 2013

Best Wine List (Value): Balaban's

What were Francophiles to do when Balaban's, the 37-year-old Central West End landmark closed? Thankfully, the beloved bistro carries on in Chesterfield as a restaurant and gourmet market. However, it's the wine program at Balaban's that makes it stand out from the crowd. Unlike most restaurants, which often charge a substantial markup for the privilege of enjoying wine service in their dining rooms, Balaban's allows patrons to peruse its enormous (more than 650 choices) selection before tacking on a meager $8 corkage fee and letting the vino flow. The result is a quality wine selection with accessibility — more than 200 bottles can be purchased for less than $20. This approach shows Balaban's commitment to creating an atmosphere where all guests can afford to have a bottle on the table. Fortunately for wine lovers, this is not a gimmick to cover up for a lackluster list; patrons will find a selection that rivals those of the priciest places in town. They just won't have to pay as much as a typical markup. The inevitable result? A second bottle, of course.