CORK CELLARS WINE & BISTRO

Food: () Good home-style cooking of select American and Mediterranean dishes.

Service: () Casual and friendly, though our server had to be prompted to bring water.

Atmosphere: () Wine shelves flank rustic furnishings on a hardwood floor.

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Location: 391 W. Cascade Ave. (U.S. Highway 20), Sisters

Hours: Winter schedule, 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Cuisine: American and Mediterranean

Price range: Appetizers $3 to $14, salads $7 to $13, flatbreads and panini $11, dinner entrees $14 to $20

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Roasted vegetable lasagna; gluten-free on request

Alcoholic beverages: Wine and beer

Outdoor seating: No

Reservations: Recommended evenings

Contact: corkcellarswinebistro.com, 541-549-2675

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Make no mistake: Cork Cellars is still Sisters’ premier wine bar.

But the wine retailer, which has had several homes since it was established in 2005, now has a full menu, not just olives and panini.

Now at the west end of downtown Sisters, on Cascade Avenue opposite the Sno Cap Drive In, Cork continues to offer premium wines by the glass and bottle. There are 17 on the current list, as well as a broad choice of domestic and international vintages on the shelves.

Since last summer, however, it’s been a bistro as well, one that serves a modest selection of salads, flatbreads and a half-dozen Mediterranean and American entrees.

Owners Tom and Jeannie Gilgenberg Buck have created a space that is at once welcoming and practical. Rustic wood furnishings spread across a hardwood floor between two tall wine display shelves. Six tall stools nestle along a simple bar at the rear of the room.

Roots and blues music provide a background soundtrack. Local musicians perform on Saturday nights, and on occasion, movies are presented. Recently, “Wizard of Oz” was accompanied by the Pink Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Dinner entrees

I stopped by one recent evening with my dining companion. We ordered wine to start, of course — an Oregon pinot noir for me, a California chardonnay for her — and enjoyed a bowl of chilled green and Kalamata olives upon placing our orders.

Each of us had a small salad of mixed greens. Dillon’s salad featured dried cranberries, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, tomatoes and a light raspberry vinaigrette. The Mediterranean salad offered artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese, along with Kalamatas and a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Neither was remarkable, but both hit the spot.

My friend enjoyed her chicken saltimbocca, even if she felt shorted by a preparation that included a single thin slice of prosciutto and one small leaf of sage. Cooked per Italian tradition in dry white wine and butter, the poultry breast was finished with a Madeira sauce and served with risotto and chopped Swiss chard.

My half-dozen Creole prawns were plump and perfectly sauteed in a buttery French beurre blanc sauce. Sweet red peppers, halved cherry tomatoes and spinach went into the slightly spicy recipe. It was served over white rice, which I thought was just a little undercooked.

On a subsequent occasion, I returned for lunch and ordered the pasta mornay. A side salad with wilted greens was unimpressive, but the main course — penne in a cheesy bechamel sauce — was excellent.

The tubular noodles were not quite what the menu had promised: Instead of prosciutto and asparagus, it had ham and peas. It also featured sauteed mushrooms and a shredded Parmesan topping, and was great comfort food for a chilly afternoon.

‘Top Chef’ kudos

The Bucks met in Los Angeles, their home before moving with their canine family to Central Oregon a couple of years ago.

Jeannie had been a television editor in Southern California. Among her programming responsibilities was the immensely popular “Top Chef.” Although she herself had never worked in the restaurant industry, this show piqued her interest in food: According to the Cork Cellars website, “She began paying close attention to what the contestants were doing, learning about flavors and texture.”

When the Bucks bought Cork Cellars, their initial intention was to maintain a tapas and wine bar. Certainly, the choice of tapas — including a charcuterie plate with meat and cheese, marcona almonds, a Greek yogurt spinach-and-artichoke dip, and salmon cakes with tomato-ginger chutney — speaks to that passion.

Flatbreads were also immediately popular. They include the Fozzy, with house-made fig-and-olive tapenade, and the Copper, with grilled chicken, cilantro and ginger Thai peanut sauce. And paninis such as the Herbavore, with marinated grilled vegetables and sun-dried tomatoes, appealed to vegetarian diners.

Gradually, the bistro began to respond to patrons’ requests for more substantial fare. And today’s Cork Cellars was born.

It may not be not worth a special trip from Bend, but if you’re passing through Sisters, it’s a worthy place to stop for a meal.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com

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