As another hot summer marches along, sometimes the right answer for a no-hassle dinner can be found at the wine shop. A growing number of small retail wine shops have been offering cheese plates, cured meats and sometimes more elaborate dishes to serve at their in-house wine bars. When all you really want is a glass of wine and some light bites to close out a long day, they are good alternatives to a formal dinner. The half dozen examples below are arranged for a geographic tour across town, starting in the Bywater.
600 Poland Avenue, New Orleans
The best-known, longest-running example of the trend, Bacchanal has evolved into something closer to a traditional restaurant with an increasingly accomplished menu. But as before, you can still buy a bottle off the retail racks and grab a table in the patio as you wait for generous cheese plates to materialize from the busy kitchen.
2805 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans
It may not be what most people expect to find along this stretch of St. Claude Avenue, but since opening in 2012 this wine shop has developed a loyal following and nurtured an active social scene between the racks. Pick out your own cheese and meats from the cooler, and the staff will assemble plates to eat at the bar or a handful of tables. Look for food trucks or pop-up restaurant specials on Tuesdays.
Swirl Wine Bar & Market
3143 Ponce De Leon Street, New Orleans
Italian wine lovers flock to this Faubourg St. John shop, where the proprietors share a passion for its incredibly varied regions. The best way to sample them is to get a seat at the small bar or in the window booths with a cheese and meat platter or one of Swirl's vegetable plates. The shop also hosts food trucks on Tuesdays and visiting chefs serving small plates on most Fridays.
Pearl Wine Co.
3700 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans
Once known as Cork & Bottle, this popular and accommodating Mid-City shop now has a focus on California wines (along with plenty of others) and an ever-evolving assortment of food options. Tasting plates of cheese and charcuterie are standards, the shop has a food truck parked outside on Fridays and other specialty food providers appear from week to week. In particular, Thursdays evenings, which intersect with the Crescent City Farmers Market just outside, are always fun here, and Pearl's bar is a full service lounge with craft cocktails and beer.
Vine & Dine
141 Delaronde Street, New Orleans
A low-key find in Algiers Point, this wine shop and cafe is worth a ferry ride across the river all on its own. In fact, that trip is part of the adventure for those coming from the East Bank. There's a small wine bar and patio in back and a kitchen serving a mix of shared appetizers and snacks with heartier fare, like pizzas. The wine selection is well-chosen and fairly priced.
Wine Institute of New Orleans (W.I.N.O.)
610 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans
This Warehouse District shop is uniquely equipped to sample many wines, with by-the-ounce dispensers lining the walls that offer dozens of bottles on any given night. Get an ounce taste of a special vintage or fill your glass with a refreshing wine to wash down the cheese and meat plates, dips and bruschetta.