It’s time

Henri enjoys wines and small plates in an old pig barn in North Chico

Photo By kyle emery

Wine Time
26 Lost Dutchman Drive (behind 3221 Esplanade, across the street from Philadelphia Square)
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 3-11 p.m.

Wine Time

26 Lost Dutchman Dr.
Chico, CA 95973

(530) 899-9250

Henri was lying on the couch watching Meet Me in St. Louis when Colette walked in, having just returned from her yoga class.

“You okay?” she said.

“Exhausted,” I said. “And totally frazzled. I’ve been shopping online all afternoon for a blazer to go with my new Paul Smith loafers. I just need to unwind.”

“Oh, you poor baby.”

I ignored her sarcasm. “I think we should go out to dinner tonight.”

“That actually sounds pretty good,” she said. “Wine Time?”

“Always,” I said, looking at my watch.

“No, Wine Time, the new restaurant north of town … oops … forgot.” She pointed. “I mean, that way.”

Do I deserve this?

Wine Time, which opened in April, is located in one of John Bidwell’s old pig barns, built in 1901, and owner and restaurant manager Bob James, a Chico State economics professor, and his wife and daughter have done an amazing job remodeling it.

Original structural posts rise from the dark, painted concrete floor to beams crossing below the high vaulted ceiling, the main dining room lit by wall sconces and two huge chandeliers, originally made for the Crystal Palace in Reno in 1951. Two dozen or so high bar tables and standard-height dining tables scatter into a smaller adjoining room, and you can also sit (dine) at the bar or on the patio outside, which is shaded by an awning made of three brightly colored sails. James is frequently on site, stopping by tables to chat.

Specializing in small plates, with many ingredients grown and produced locally, Wine Time offers a wide range of appetizers, flatbreads, salads, meat plates and desserts, each dish including a recommended wine (which come as two- or six-ounce pours or full bottles) or a Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. ale. The idea is that rather than order all of your food at once, you order several small plates to share over the course of the evening.

“Quick Bites” ($2.50-$12) range from a baguette from Tin Roof Bakery to a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, while the flatbreads ($7-$10) include pesto, jerk chicken and even one with figs and goat cheese. You can also order Greek salad, puffed pastry and baked brie and mushroom crostini. Desserts ($6 and $7) range from strawberry tarts to truffles with chipotle. The 80-plus wines include locals New Clairvaux, Odyssey, Bertagna and Gale as well as many from Napa and the central coast and Europe. They also have Guinness in addition to Sierra Nevada on tap.

We started with a meat-and-cheese plate, with two types of salami, Spanish chorizo, and sweet coppa (all from Petaluma’s Zoe’s Meats), as well as four different soft cheeses, one a delicious blue. We also ordered the Greek antipasto plate, with goat-cheese-stuffed sweet peppers, almonds, squares of feta, and a variety of olives. I had a glass of Lunatic Red (very good blend from Luna Vineyards in Napa). Next we tried a jerk chicken flatbread with goat cheese, arugula and a very tasty peach chutney.

All of it was absolutely delicious, and we were particularly impressed with the help, who are friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the menu. In fact, we liked it so much that we returned several evenings later and tried the Not Garlic Bread, a big mound of bite-sized pieces of Tin Roof sourdough with pancetta butter and gorgonzola (filling and delicious), the skirt steak and gorgonzola flatbread, which was excellent, and the Tuscan kale ravioli, which Colette liked more than I did. I found the undercooked kale too chewy.

All in all, we’re very impressed and eager to go back, especially for the flatbreads, the best deals on the menu—they mean it when they say “small plates.” As we left the second night, she pointed out that a disproportionate number of the customers seemed to be well-dressed 40-something women, many sitting together in large groups.

“No wonder the owner’s always here,” she said. “Wouldn’t you…? Oh, never mind.”

I don’t deserve this.