By Lydia on April 2, 2009 6:45 PM| | Comments (11)
Yes Grand Rapids, in a spectacular proof of our behind-the-times-itude, we have our very first "wine bar." Recently opened on Cherry St., Corez is a small, modern space with low, uncovered tables and a sort of wooden-dowel wall covering behind the bar that calls to mind a bamboo sushi mat. Long, cylindrical water glasses sit on tables, and when customers sit they are filled with filtered water, no ice: just like the Europeans!

OK, you got me. I am being snarky, and the fault doesn't lie with Corez, whose only mistake is that it should have opened five years ago, not two months. I think that we have been too long without this sort of place. Not a "wine bar" necessarily (a term which makes me cringe just a tad at its faux sophistication) but a casual place where you can get really good food and a nice drink without the pretensions so typical of fine dining.  I think it may be a hallmark of my generation to want our great food without such trappings: the tablecloths, the suited waiters, the "madam" and "sirs," the stilted rules and almost unavoidable awkwardness that accompanies them. Corez acchieves a lovely balance between respectful and casual, and the food is above par for its market.

The menu is broken down into small and large plates and "nibbles" of charcuterie, cheeses, olives and bread. The artisinal cheeses and meats are available singly or in combination (about $5 each.) On a recent visit the Zingerman's Bridgewater was a standout, it's spiked with pepper which cuts the double-cream richness beautifully. Also good was a "Humbolt Fog" goat cheese from Cypress Grove, which slowly melted at room temperature as we ate. Less successful was a rillette of pork; when dipping into what is basically a dish of fat, creaminess is key. Gritty was the word for this version, though its porky flavor was rich.

Small and large plates at Corez are mostly thoughtful and well executed, from a tender whitefish, to a rich mushroom gnocci. Sides seem to be chosen well to enhance the center protein (after all, we are still in Michigan. Beside the gnocci the only vegetarian large plate is a "dry rubbed tofu") and they do a great supporting job. A prettily pink duck was served with grits which were saved from being a bland accompanying starch by crunchy pieces of duck skin crackling. Unfortunately, a rhubarb sauce streaked across the plate fared worse. Despite my best efforts to dislodge some it had fused to the plate, perhaps a tad too long under the heat lamp?

The best of the food at Corez is honest, tasty, and (dare I say it?) sophisticated, with just a little twist. The remoulade accompanying the whitefish was the best kind of tangy and herby; just what a mild fish needs. A dessert of stacked crepes came with a rosemary ice cream that was surprisingly good.

Be prepared, though, that though you can wander in wearing jeans, you will be paying for the privilege. With large plates in the upper teens and specialty cocktails hovering at $10, it is easy here to run up a bill. Better to stick with carafes of house wine, in red or white. These are always simple, straightforward and good, and at only $15 one of the best deals on wine in town. For the connoisseur there is a long wine list, but I am calling you Mr. Millionaire Astronaut if you can afford that kind of thing at this point.

You forgot to mention that their french toast sticks put the Burger King breakfast menu to shame.

Or, I mean-- bread pudding, i f anyone else wants to find them on the menu. But don't let 'em fool you, you will probably reach to pick one up and dunk it in syrup before remembering where you are. My only issue was that they could use more ice cream, but when isn't that the case?

yes! bread pudding stix!!! that caramel ice cream was so good because it wasn't so sweet. yum... if only they were on the Dollar Menu-naire menu. actually i think thats mcdonalds. whatevs. Also, I forgot to say that the coffee, made americano style i think, was really excellent.

nice to finally hear a good review of corez. everyone i've talked to has said it it's pretentious, some staff are condescending, and it's really expensive. i have heard they have really good mixed drinks.

i don't foresee corez making it. with cheaper options across the street at green well and around the corner at the winchester, why would people go to a wine bar? especially when there are already places like bar divani where, even if the selection isn't as good - i don't know, i'm not really into wine - the owners are super knowledgeable.

i haven't been yet. there's just usually someplace else i'd rather go. i imagine this will prove true for others too.

i totally feel you on the grand rapids being behind the times, though. it's like bloom (whose chef did the corez menu i believe.) it's the ONLY place that does couture food here. people seem to either love it or hate it, not because it's actually great or terrible, but because there is nothing else to compare it to.

The thing about the prices at Corez is that they are not really higher than other restaurants in town. In the industry people refer to GCA, or guest check average. At San Chez the GCA is $25, and each server has a running score of whether they meet goals or not. I don't think that Corez's GCA is much higher than that. Maybe they tack on another $5. My point, though, is that people are more than happy to be paying $7-10 a tapa (times 2 or 3) plus $9 for a mojito at my job which has, like, a billion more seats. Maybe the term "wine bar" is what turns people off. I know I dislike it. It is definitely pretentious and it makes it seem like they won't serve you beer. They will, and their cocktail list is one of the most honestly creative in town. (apart from the mostly imaginary cocktails in my head)

Obviously, for most of us paying $25 a person for dinner falls under the "special occasion only" catagory, but the next time I have an extra $10 to spend I am going to Corez for spring carrot soup with nutmeg creme fraiche and dried capers, and a glass of house wine.

Besides, isn't the word "gastropub" just as annoying as "wine bar?"

YES! gastropub is an annoying as wine bar! in fact, it's worse! it sounds gross, like some sort of bowel disorder or public problem. i can't believe it sells.

my friend that works at corez said that people have actually left, telling her that "they'd love to eat here, but they just can't afford it". i wonder if this is a psychological thing, though. the last time i went to denny's (years ago), i think i spent like $10 on chicken strips. you can get dinner for that at the winchester, but if you asked most people they'd assume that denny's is so much cheaper.

OMG!! That's funny, my mother and I had the exact same conversation today! It DOES sound like a bowel disorder! And also about the relative price thing.!! Are you my mom??? I don't think she knows any of the employees though, so I think its just that we are both (all) right. I hope more people give this place the same chance they give the "gastropubs" and the EGR-style bars with food and the like.

On the price / value / quality question I still don't understand why people tolerate the crap that comes out of the Gillmore restaurants? The Gillmores (Roses, BOB, Blue Water, etc.) build pretty settings and serve consistently mediocre food at prices that seem a little lower but end up being just as expensive as places like Corea that are trying to do something original.

ugh. it's so true. i feel like rockwell's and republic are classic examples. i mean they're ok, and they have LOVELY lighting fixtures, but everything about them is fairly mediocre.

grand rapids truly has a culture of mediocrity with food and nightlife. my own personal annoyance aside, this sucks because it contributes to overall "brain drain". talented culinary artists move to cities where people get what they do and they have a chance at actually being successful. the ones that stay here can't get jobs.

there's just not enough competition here to challenge innovation. it's depressing. food and culinary equipment are kind of expensive so starting a grassroots project to address this would be both hard and quasi-legal (health code).

I haven't been in there yet. but i would really like to. Mike, the manager, asked me to make some mixes to play in the restaurant at certain times in the night. I made one but never heard back so I guess they weren't into it. Ah well. I continue to like wine.

I just stumbled on this review of our restaurant (I am a server at Corez), and thank you for all the positive and thoughtful feedback. It's nice to see that so many people are enjoying our food and wine. Also we are very excited about our new patio to be open early June. We will be featuring chairs and tables with out the dirt! Ooooo, how classy. So come and be seen getting ridiculous on Cherry Street, at the Corez. Oh and the "wine bar" term is only to help frame the experience at Corez; hopefully, in time, the word "Corez" will be sufficient.

If you liked the Bridgewater (which I haven't tried) I imagine you would love the Detroit Street Brick. It is so good! Humbolt Fog is pretty dope too.

Dope blog. Keep writing.