Suzanne's, 1735 Connecticut Ave. NW: Located between Dupont Circle and the Washington Hilton, Suzanne's is in YP (Young Professional) and convention territory.
Many of the YPs and some of the conventioneers do wander into the "haute carryout" food shop on the ground floor, but they should join the locals upstairs for a glass of wine. First impressions are sweet. A display of desserts, Suzanne's hallmark, faces the door. To the right are the bar and a small eating room and to the left is the larger, lighter and noisier room. Acoustics are not Suzanne's strong suit. The pity of it is that the bar is effectively screened off from the two eating rooms, making the place more of a bistro than a pub.
The wine list, in which the wines are arranged by style (light, dry whites; full-bodied reds) rather than by region or grape variety, offers wines by the bottle at good prices. The selection changes occasionally, usually coinciding with a change in wine bar manager. Of more interest for a casual lunch or an experimental wine drinker is the chalkboard list of wines by the glass. This changes as frequently as the supply of a wine lasts.
Wine service at the tables tends toward the cavalier, but you'll get good advice from behind the bar. The food has had its ups and downs, but on recent visits was on the way up again. Supplied from the downstairs kitchen, it emphasizes salads, savory and sweet tarts, cheeses and desserts, including the renowned, all- diets-barred, chocolate chestnut gateau.
Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 1 a.m.
Park Place, 2651 Connecticut Ave. NW: With the caf,e on the ground floor, the wine bar in the basement and live music on weekends, Park Place spreads itself a shade thin. The caf,e is light, clean and bright, but has about as much wine charm as a '70s health food place. The service is friendly and uninformed, especially on the wines. The bar itself, a rather gloomy, low-ceilinged room, is not open for weekday lunches, but the same wines and foods are served upstairs and on the sidewalk patio.
The wine list is small, sound and fairly priced, useful credentials for a pub list. The California selection is particularly good, showing several whites and reds that are no longer available on retail shelves. However, the French sections are limited to pleasant, but widely available wines. A portable chalkboard offers a selection by the glass, half-glass and, a generous and educational note, free tasting samples of whatever takes your fancy. The quality of the house wines is way above average, the recent red being Torres' Sangre de Torre.
The food at lunch is adequate. Ingredients are fresh and the informal presentation matches the decor and service.
Open Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m.
La Colline, 400 North Capitol St. NW: A restaurant smart enough to take business guests for lunch, casual enough for a pre- theater snack and open for breakfast, La Colline defies a simple definition. I can say, however, that it's gradually becoming an important wine place, or, to use the management's term, a "wine center": It offers good prices for quality wines by the glass, a champagne cart wheeled around to whet the palate for a glass of bubbly and direct shipment of wines unavailable through local sources. All are steps toward that end.
For the time being, the list is intentionally limited to French and American wines, with a particularly good Alsace section and a couple of unusual touches, such as vintage ports and eaux-de-vies, to raise it above the norm.
As a wine bar, La Colline's disadvantage is its location. Unless you happen to be near Union Station, it's not the ideal afterwork watering hole. Nor is its formal table setting a relaxed atmosphere for a publike lunch. But for the intrepid, these will be minor irritants if the wine center lives up to its promise.
The bar is open from Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.