Sixty Vines is a new wine-themed restaurant in West Plano, from the owners of Whiskey Cake, Velvet Taco, Twin Peaks and other popular restaurants. 

Sixty Vines is a new wine-themed restaurant in West Plano, from the owners of Whiskey Cake, Velvet Taco, Twin Peaks and other popular restaurants. 

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

I'm amazed. I'm sitting inside a stunning, 300-seat, wine-themed restaurant that seems to have sprung fully realized (including its overflow crowd of diners) from beneath the asphalt of its suburban strip-mall parking lot.

Creations like this are the genius of Front Burner Restaurant Group, the firm that brought us Whiskey Cake, Ida Claire, Velvet Taco and Mexican Sugar. They're all meticulously designed, high-concept, high-energy restaurants colonizing strip-mall parking lots or suburban developments. Somehow they're always packed with enthusiastic patrons from the get-go, crowded, it seems, before their doors even open.

This one, Sixty Vines, occupies the same Plano strip-mall lot as Whiskey Cake.

The "butcher pizza" at Sixty Vines 

The "butcher pizza" at Sixty Vines 

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

From our perches at the 13-seat, L-shaped "charcuterie bar," my husband and I dine on nicely charred wood-fired pizza; rigatoni tossed in roasted eggplant and tomato sauce and dotted with house-made ricotta; and Wagyu steak cooked gorgeously medium-rare on a wood grill in the open kitchen.

The restaurant is huge, with soaring ceilings, blond woods, clean lines and a whole palette of seating choices. There are regular dining tables (some with banquettes), high communal tables, lounge seating and two patios. Is the charcuterie bar full? You could also grab one of the 18 seats at the wine-on-tap bar stretched along the back wall under a whimsical, fluid, illustration-like winemaking-themed painting. The dining room is meant to evoke an "organic environment inspired by the Napa and Sonoma wine country." It's a tall order in a Plano parking lot, yet it fulfills its mission surprisingly well, managing somehow to feel more warm and handcrafted than corporate. (Though at a time when there's so much great house-made charcuterie being served, I don't think I'd use the moniker "charcuterie bar" at a restaurant that brings it in from elsewhere.)

The 13-seat "charcuterie bar" is one of many dining areas at Sixty Vines. The charcuterie isn't made in-house, though.

The 13-seat "charcuterie bar" is one of many dining areas at Sixty Vines. The charcuterie isn't made in-house, though.

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

A happy alchemy between decor and waitstaff helps a lot. Show up without a reservation any night of the week, and a wait for a table is likely. The management makes that as pleasant as possible: There are plenty of high bistro tables near the entrance, and if you stand next to one it won't be long before a server approaches with a list of the 39 wines and 16 beers on tap. (At least that's what happened to me on more than one occasion.) All are offered by the 2.5-ounce taste, 5-ounce glass, 8-ounce quartino or 750 ml (bottle-sized) carafe.

Twenty-eight members of the waitstaff participated in the Court of Master Sommeliers two-day Level 1 training and passed the examination, according to a spokeswoman for the restaurant, and I was impressed over the course of four visits with servers' enthusiasm and grasp of the wine offerings. They include a separate electronic tablet list of vintages offered by the bottle, in addition to the wines on tap. If there's something servers can't answer, they send over one of four certified sommeliers.

Sometimes the food disappoints. That Wagyu steak, while nicely cooked and seasoned, tasted like a decent supermarket cut; it missed the richness and tenderness one expects with Wagyu. Pan-roasted chicken was overcooked; vegetables were often undercooked, including a pesto-encrusted whole cauliflower that looked like a brain on a board stabbed by a knife.

A pesto-encrusted roasted cauliflower looks like a brain on a board, stabbed with a knife.

A pesto-encrusted roasted cauliflower looks like a brain on a board, stabbed with a knife.

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

However, much of it is very good, and many dishes have prices that are very friendly for such a stylish joint.

The pasta dishes, which come in two sizes, are a case in point. The smaller, midcourse-type size is pretty generous: An $8 plate of orecchiette tossed with ground chicken sausage, wilted dandelion greens, chile flakes and grated Romano cheese was delicious, and a large enough main course for someone who's not a big eater. (The larger size is $11.) Two involve house-made pasta: garganelli (which I skipped, as a dish involving spring peas and sweet pea purée sounded all wrong on a late-autumn evening) and fettuccine, which needs some work: It was tough and drowned in a very salty sauce.

Orecchiette with ground chicken sausage and dandelion greens

Orecchiette with ground chicken sausage and dandelion greens

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

The pizzas are well-priced, too, at $10 to $13 for a 12-inch pie. I didn't love the white sauce on a bianca pizza, and felt a gorgeous squash blossom pie was overwhelmed by lemony goat cheese, but I loved a "butcher" pizza topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, soppressata, prosciutto and more. All had excellent midweight crust, nicely charred in the wood-fired oven.

Another dish I loved was a crab Louie salad fashioned from tender leaves of Bibb lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, radishes, tomatoes, cukes and asparagus. The menu calls its dressing "classic Louie." It's not; classic Louie is a creamy dressing similar to Thousand Island, while this was a vinaigrette. It was altogether lovely, though.

Twenty-eight members of Sixty Vines' waitstaff participated in the Court of Master Sommeliers two-day Level 1 training and passed the examination, according to a spokeswoman.

Twenty-eight members of Sixty Vines' waitstaff participated in the Court of Master Sommeliers two-day Level 1 training and passed the examination, according to a spokeswoman.

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

Manila clams in a white-wine chowder broth and saucy beef-and-pork meatballs were also likable.

The C.A.B. burger was a standout: a thick, well-seasoned patty of Akaushi beef griddled gloriously medium-rare as ordered, smothered in Cabernet reduction, cloaked in melted raclette cheese, then dressed with caramelized onions, tomato and Worcestershire mayo on a bun inspired by an everything bagel. The only thing that would have improved it would be some kind of green (arugula?). And while the roasted diced potatoes tossed in duck fat and butter were good, some great fries might have been even better. Still, this is a pretty darned good plate, especially with a great glass of wine.

C.A.B. Burger: gorgeously griddled, smothered in Cabernet reduction and melted raclette and served with duck fat potatoes 

C.A.B. Burger: gorgeously griddled, smothered in Cabernet reduction and melted raclette and served with duck fat potatoes 

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

And that's really the strength of Sixty Vines: You can get an interesting glass – or taste, or carafe or whatever – of a wine, properly served, at the right temperature in Riedel stemware at a reasonable price and something fairly simple and delicious to eat with it, also at a reasonable price. Aaron Benson, who put together the original wine list at Wayward Sons, is in charge of the beverage program, and (with a little help) he's done an admirable job assembling a collection of wines from around the world that work well with food and that appeal to every type of wine lover, from timid beginner to adventurous bargain hunter to trophy seeker.

The on-tap wines seem to be the best deals: Five-ounce glasses range from $6 for a very decent Pratsch Grüner Veltliner or Duchman Family Vineyards Trebbiano to $16 for a Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cab from Napa.

The on-tap wines are the best deals.

The on-tap wines are the best deals.

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

Another 40 or so nontap wines are offered by the glass, including such food-friendly pours as a 2013 Château de Brézé Saumur for $10. Some are delivered via Coravin, a storage system that minimizes oxidation, designed to allow for longer shelf-life. That list's trophy is a 1985 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien from Bordeaux, $100 for a 5-ounce pour. As it retails for about $200 per bottle, it's not exactly a bargain.

Prices on the tablet list (about 130 selections) carry standard markups, priced from $36 for a 2015 McPherson Cellars Viogner to $500 for that Ducru-Beaucaillou.

Would it be nice to see a grower Champagne or two on the list, and friendlier prices for the nontap wines? Of course. But it's no worse than many other restaurants. Ask one of the sommeliers to help steer you toward a bargain you'll like.

The "sweet board" at Sixty Vines

The "sweet board" at Sixty Vines

Rose Baca/Staff Photographer

Desserts were fine, if not terribly memorable. Most interesting was a "sweet board" that includes slabs of matcha castella cake (a Japanese honey cake, spiked in this case with green matcha tea), good shortbread cookies and more.

There are a few fun (if pricy) after-dinner sippers, like a Rare Wine Co. New York Malmsey Madeira or a Ramos Pinto 30 Year Tawny Port, $10 and $20 respectively for 2.5-ounce pours.

Part of the genius of Front Burner is that it seems to have its finger firmly on the pulse of what a neighborhood needs. I didn't realize West Plano desperately needed a sprawling, reasonably priced wine-themed restaurant, but apparently it did. Yes, there's room for improvement foodwise, but between the appealing space and the excellent experience delivered by an unusually engaged and thoughtful staff, it's one I can enthusiastically recommend.

Sixty Vines (3 stars)

Price: $$-$$$ (starters $6 to $10, salads $5 to $18; pizzas $11 to $13; lunch pasta $7 to $11, sandwiches and main courses $12 to $16; dinner pastas $7 to $12, main courses $17 to $34; brunch dishes $6 to $17; desserts $5 to $9)

Sixty Vines

Service: Thoughtful, attentive and generally no-nonsense, well-informed about the menu and wines

Ambience: A sprawling, airy, vibrant dining room with varied seating and a polished wine-country feel

Noise level: It can be noisy, but not so much that conversation is difficult.

Location: Sixty Vines, 3701 Dallas Parkway (between Parker Road and Windhaven Parkway), Plano; 469-620-8463

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday 9 a.m. to midnight; Sunday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Reservations: Accepted

Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Wine and beer only. A thoughtful selection of wines from around the world is available by the taste, glass, quartino, carafe and bottle. Sixteen beers are offered on tap.

Ratings Legend

5 stars: Extraordinary

4 stars: Excellent

3 stars: Very good

2 stars: Good

1 star: Fair

No stars: Poor

Price Key

Average dinner per person

$ -- $14 and under

$$ -- $15 to $30

$$$ -- $31 to $50

$$$$ -- More than $50

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