Photos: This New Edgewater Spot Will Change The Way You Drink Wine
By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 20, 2016 4:00PM
For the last few months, Edgewater residents have watched as Income Tax, a new wine-focused restaurant on North Broadway, has edged towards completion. “This community is so excited,” says Chef Ryan Henderson. “I was at a party and when someone heard I was working at Income Tax, they gave me a big hug." As of today, the wait is over, as Income Tax opens its doors at 5 p.m.
Owner Nelson Fitch and GM Collin Moody don’t use “wine bar” to describe Income Tax, and I can see why; it conjures up a slightly hip, overpriced late '90s place in Seattle with lots of stools and things drizzled on bread where pretentious twerps swirl things and opine. Income Tax is a “wine-focused restaurant,” and, semantic gymnastics aside, Fitch and Moody are trying to create a different type of atmosphere for drinking good wine.
As Moody put it to me, they have an "allergy to some of the pretense" that surrounds wine drinking. That’s obvious from the first moment you walk into Income Tax, which feels more like a neighborhood tavern (albeit one with really, really good woodwork) than a trendy restaurant.
The second thing you might notice, at least if you’re observant, is white writing all over a giant black wine fridge at the back of the restaurant. That’s because, in a development that literally has me shaking with excitement, every single bottle on the Income Tax wine list (which has about 80 options) is available to buy by the half bottle. Casual drinkers don’t have to settle for mediocre glass pours anymore!
Once they open the bottle and decant half of it into a bottle for you, the name of the wine is written on the fridge, and is available (for a little while) to anyone in the restaurant by the glass. At Income Tax, drinking becomes a spectator sport, and I can imagine hovering at the bar waiting for a table to order an expensive half bottle so I can gulp down a glass that no bar would ever put on their by-the-glass menu. It will keep things engaged, and it lets servers tell patrons about just-opened selections only available for a few minutes—like a constant wine flash sale. And there’s barely any extra charge for the half (you pay about 55 percent of the bottle price). "We feel empathy,” explains Moody. “A bottle feels like a commitment, so we wanted to reward people for trusting us."
The wine list is almost entirely European in origin, arranged by region with a strong emphasis on French wines. Moody did stints at Perman Wine Selections and Red & White, while Fitch worked at nearby Independent Spirits, and they get visibly, geekishly excited about the many varieties on the list. “I can tell you a story about every single bottle on this list,” Moody insists, and I absolutely believe him.
I’m honestly not a by-the-bottle wine drinker most of the time, because it seems too expensive (even though, as Moody points out, by the time a couple has two cocktails and two glasses of wine, they’ve paid more than a bottle costs). And here, a big chunk of the list is under $50/bottle. Fitch calls the markup “friendly,” and laughingly tells me “Our distributor told us we should charge more." Between the prices and the bottle splits, diners like myself may be encouraged to experiment with some more interesting wines.
Enough about the wine, what about the food at Income Tax? Chef Henderson has done time at some well-known restaurants, including Momofuku Noodle Bar, Alder (with Wylie Dufresne) and, in Chicago, Maple & Ash. Despite his modernist resume, the food at Income Tax is basically elevated European comfort food, interestingly arranged on the menu by region so as to make wine pairing easier. Drinking a Rioja? Try a pan con tomate, which Henderson makes from spicy homemade saffron bread and spikes with tomato water gel. Interested in some German reisling (of which there’s a huge selection? Go for a “Black Forest Duck,” cured in the same mix of spices used to make black forest ham and served rare on a bed of spatzel.
I plan to be eating the Salade Beaucaire all winter (from an antique recipe Henderson found in the collection of the New York Public Library), a French salad made only with winter vegetables like beets and celery root, yet somehow as refreshing and light as anything you’d get in summer. The name, Henderson laughingly tells me, translates to “beautiful rock salad.” That’s not the only antique recipe on the list; I’m a big fan of leeks vinaigrette, but I’ve never seen it on a modern restaurant menu. Bacalao, pate de campagne, coq au vin, Tuscan bistec; Henderson has created some menu porn of the first order for anyone who loves classic European dishes. Plus, aside from the bistec (which is 18 ounces and serves two) almost the entire menu comes in under $20 a dish.
This particular strip of Edgewater doesn’t have a lot going on in the restaurant department, but I suspect that’s about to change. Between the lack of snobbery, the great prices and the friendly atmosphere, this is a restaurant well suited to its neighborhood, and Moody and Fitch are tuned into that. Their mission, Moody tells me, is “about getting bottles open and into the glasses of Edgewater."
Let’s go pop some corks.
Income Tax is located at 5959 N. Broadway.