You have to believe that Cork Wine Pub is something special — it’s the only restaurant in Pleasant Ridge to be granted a liquor license by the city; and that small feat only took three years of cajoling by its owners before officials signed off.
Partners Joel Rubin and Jeff Mar spent years traveling, researching and tweaking precisely what they thought would embody a welcoming and successful hot spot — from the wine and spirits to the food — and, especially, the hospitality.
The pair settled on a stylish space, previously home to an architectural firm along a mostly residential section of Woodward Avenue. Since opening its doors last November with an impressive — and reasonably priced — wine list, creative cocktails and well-executed menu, Cork has quickly become a favorite among locals.
The wine offerings are diverse, and the owners like adding special finds from Spain, Australia, Argentina, Lebanon, Michigan and Oregon to their stable of selections from California, Italy and France. The cocktail menu is also varied — without being overwhelming — and blends the traditional with the uncommon (Vodka Gimlet with agave syrup and lime? Yum!)
The menu caters to all appetites, from snacks as accoutrement to your cocktail (like the devilish and crispy J.M.’s Chick Peas or fingerling potatoes with chipotle sauce) up to a full-sized dinner.
Cork currently offers five entrees — with plans to expand over time — including pan-seared chicken with Champagne risotto and a hearty grass-fed Cambridge filet with a delicate red-wine sauce.
In between are small plates, like Grammy’s Knishes (stuffed with potatoes and sour cream) and luxurious Brick Roll wraps (wild mushrooms, goat cheese and caramelized onion), and third courses (several lovely salads, roasted beets with brown butter vin and smoked fish).
And the last course, desserts, is well worth a visit for their own sake (Butterscotch Pudding, made with Dewars, covered with warm toffee sauce and accompanied by a dark gingerbread financier for dipping, is a standout; so, too, is the Banana Espresso Tart with a frozen caramel parfait).
End the night with the best cup of dark-roast Sumatra (from Great Lakes Coffee) you can imagine, served cafe gourmand style with an assortment of petite pastries by resident pastry chef Tanya Fallon.
Cork is intimate but encourages wandering and socializing, seating just about 80. A couple of large tables accommodate special occasions in the main dining area, while after-work cocktail drinkers and those just gearing up for the night fill out the bar space and adjoining high-table seating area.
Despite the low-key neighborhood charm, it’s clear that Cork is run by serious people. Rubin, Mar and proprietor Nancy Crutchfield have informed opinions about taste — in wine, cocktails and dining.
Rubin also takes hospitality seriously, a trait he picked up busing tables at the iconic Irving’s Deli in Southfield as a teenager — and where he met his future executive chef, Bree Hoptman, who was the proprietors’ granddaughter. Hoptman would later complement her family-provided training with a formal culinary-school education.
Rubin has worked hard to hone the hospitality skills learned since his days at Irving’s. “We created Cork for adults. A place that would be fun and sophisticated — something we thought was missing from the area,” Rubin said.
Cork Wine Pub
23810 Woodward Ave.
(248) 544-2675; corkwinepub.com
$$ (moderate) out of $$$$
Closed on Monday
Tuesday-Thursday: 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 4 p.m.-midnight