“Wine bars” tend to have a lurking stigma: pinky fingers lilted in snarky sophistication; sniffling, snorting, and swishing around the rim of a delicate glass, and an obvious lack of substantial protein – typically substituted by insignificant amounts of fungal,aged cheese and past-due starch. Perhaps it depends on personal perception, but, in a city where trend-oriented wine bars rear their temporary heads, only to vanish into obscurity, it is reassuring to have a spot like Wet Stone Wine Bar in the Banker’s Hill area.
Wet Stone Wine Bar is the brainchild of Proprietor/Chef Christian Gomez. A native San Diegan, Gomez grew up in the Barrio Logan area in a rich and culturally diverse background. His father was an executive chef, and of Filipino-Spanish descent, while his mother was Panamanian-Chinese. This background commenced Gomez’s quest for conquering world cuisine at an early age.
According to Gomez’s biography , early weekend outings to Tijuana’s Mercado Central was quite the norm. On these trips, which typically involved the whole family, Gomez was further introduced into the majesty that is the “open-air market.” With his father being an executive chef, it was only natural for the boy to enter the industry at an early age. This lead to Gomez getting a job as a bus boy working at chef Tom Fat’s renowned Fat City/China Camp while in his teens, of which would provide the later drive for him to open his own spot. In approaching early adulthood, Gomez took a trip to Europe to learn the “Old World” cooking methods used from Amsterdam to Paris.
Striking out on his own in the states, Gomez landed a gig in Los Angeles at the innovative Border Grill. The Border Grill was owned by Sue Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, whose global menu and attention to presentation enthralled Gomez. This kick started him into an endeavor known as “food styling.”
“This was so different from my experience where preparing food meant indulging a taste. With food styling, the priority lies solely upon tantalizing the eye,” says Gomez.
In 2005, after many attempts at pitching television shows to executives between LA and NYC, Gomez landed a job co-producing thirteen episodes of Green Eats for NBC-LA. Following a subsequent trip to Europe once more, Gomez returned to San Diego to work back and forth from LA as a private chef.
After spending half of his life honing his trade in Los Angeles, Gomez was ready to show his hometown’s culinary scene what was up. The Fourth Avenue location is anything but pretentious, for it was once an old residence. A colonial-style residence where the first floor has been converted into comfortably intimate setting, with each table area a different motif. Dining at Wet Stone is the comparison to a private dinner at a friend’s house. The menu reflects the restaurants straightforward setup, serving lunch and dinner everyday besides Monday. Furthermore, the food is to the point, brought tapas style, and ultimately equals out to filling meals.
The panini is a lunch staple at Wet Stone, with swine-enthusiasts object of affection – pork belly – as a main attraction. The pork belly panini ($7) is a braised “Chinese five,” and is served with aioli, fennel slaw, and tangy pickled red onions. For a lighter lunch date, try the caprese ($8) or beet ($9) salad. If one is really craving something substantial for lunch, order one of Wet Stone’s “small plates” (not a small portion), like the churrasco plate ($15). The churrasco is a mix-grilled plate of achiote chicken breast, flat-iron steak, and merguez lamb sausage with in-house chimichurri & bleu cheese crostini.
Wet Stone’s lunch menu transitions well into the dinner menu, as several items remain, only in slightly larger portions. Like any decent wine bar, Wet Stone has fruit and cheese ($14), as well as meat and cheese plates ($16). One major twist from a typical wine bar, however, is that Wet Stone serves flat bread pizzas from $14-$16 (seems to be a common theme). The four-cheese queso fundido ($10), is also great to share with the table – but the pork belly crostinis ($9) really drive it home.
Regarding wines, Wet Stone has a great selection of “global” and “stateside” red and whites, as well as a selection of craft beers from around the world. Wines on special are typically $7 a glass, and $25 for a carafe.
Wet Stone Wine Bar is open for lunch from 11-2pm Tuesday to Friday, open for dinner from 5-10pm Tuesday to Saturday, as well as from 4-9pm on Sunday. Happy hour is from 5-7pm Tuesday to Saturday, and all night on Sunday.
Wet Stone Wine Bar is located at 1927 Fourth Avenue in Banker’s Hill 619-255-2856.