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Dec 19, 2008 06:30 AM

The Cask in San Carlos -- wine bar

This place has been open for a couple of months and we've checked it out a few times. It is a wine bar with a nice selection of California wines and a limited selection of imports. For quality and variety the wine list good and a welcomed addition to Laurel Street. It's nice to have another place to grab a good glass. Lately it has been mobbed when we go in, I think they are attracting a spill over crowd from Town, which has become quite the crowded scene.

The Cask is worth going for a glass and maybe a cheese plate. Hits were the cheese selection and the snacks like the olives and almonds. Misses were the charcuterie, which was average quality packaged meats and "crostinis" that were too thick to bite without shattering all over and too big to eat in one bite. Biggest miss was the serano ham, which was overly dried and tasted of jerkey. Biggest hit was the lamb sausages, which had nice spice and good lamb flavor. Another disappointment was the flat bread. They serve four slices in one order with a choice of toppings that vary night to night. One night they were hot and crispy. Another night they sat at the pass and arrived soggy in places. What was worse was that the flavors were missing. Our margarita flatbread had big chunks of tasteless tomatoes and a surprisingly tasteless mozzarella. I suspect cheap, Sysco quality ingredients. Nothing suggests that they are using fresh, seasonal, or local ingredients consistently. The salads were okay, but again laking in the flavor department. In a word, I'd call the food uninspired. The biggest problem with that is that they are charging prices comparable to better places. 3 meat charcuterie, 1 salad, 1 flatbread, and 2 glasses of wine came to $70 for 2 people. For that price, we'll be heading to Refuge for food next time. However for a glass of wine and a few bites of cheese, we'll give The Cask our business again.

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  1. For a wine bar, I found the wine by the glass list to be completely uninspired. And the markup is beyond belief, a glass of Napa wine that retails for $13 was going for $12 by the glass. Unfortunately it still looks like you have to go up to SF to find interesting wine and quality food in one place.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jsgjewels

      I have to completely agree. This place was made for san carlosian cougars and young couples who are sick with their cosmotiniritas at TOWN and want to seem more sophisticated. Living in the heart of California, I expect a far more interesting, and affordable wine list. Food was all pretty bad as well. The only thing this place had going for them was an outdoor patio and decent stemware.

    2. I happened to be in San Carlos yesterday and walked by this place and was wondering. Guess I don't have to wonder any more based on the reviews here. Isn't there a Mediterranean place across the street that also has a wine bar?

      1 Reply
      1. re: realspear

        That would be Spasso - same owners as Cask - and same level of food. Not bad but not great and $$ for the quality...

      2. link

        The Cask
        782 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

        1. Has occasion to try this as The Refuge was closed for the holidays. We had made plans to meet friends there (guess it pays to check first)
          In any case, we tried this spot as a potentially reasonable substitute. It was any way. I think the Sysco call is a good one. Ingrediants are not acceptable. Wine list was unintersting. Overcooked pasta dish appeared to have raw garlic in it. I would not give them a second shot. It did seem crowded for whatever reason.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tomritza

            Yeah, the wine list is uninteresting if you are familiar with area wineries. They have the usual suspects like BR Cohn, Ravenswood, Buena Vista, etc. but they have a lot of different labels in that range and a little better. Some of them are quite good wines. You won't get any hard to find gems here, but some better choices than most other restaurants around here. The bigger issue I have with the wines is the price, many prices seem to be about 20% too much, others are laughable like Gary Farrell,06,Russian River Chardonnay for $20 a glass or $75 a bottle -- no thanks.

            1. re: Shane Greenwood

              Agreed. It really is unacceptable for a "wine bar" to mark up glass prices that much versus bottle prices ($20/glass translates into $100 bottle, they do not have unusually big pours). A wine bar is supposed to encourage customers to try different wines and hence have a large selection by the glass (which they do not), and not punish customers for choosing glass over bottle.

              1. re: jsgjewels

                I know it's a little far, but over here in Alameda we have a lovely little wine bar, Alameda Wine Co. 2315 Central Ave (near Park St) next to the Alameda Theater.
                The owner, Karen is committed to quality and value, does tastes as well as regular pours and changes her Tasting menu about every 2-3 weeks. I loved the aged (96-99) Riesling flight she did a few weeks back. Delicious! She's always been really nice to me and now that she knows what I like, she recommends all sorts of new, yummy things for me to try.

          2. After a slow start, I think this place is awesome, and I'm very grateful that downtown San Carlos finally has a nice wine bar!!! The decor is incredibly beautiful. Check the pics at YELP or at caskwineandcheesebar dot com. You can sit inside or outside, as you wish. The staff are very friendly. The food dishes - mostly small plates - are excellent, in my experience. Every food dish seems to have a special touch, special blend of flavors, that clearly demonstrates care and talent. It turns out that the restaurant across the street (Spasso?) - extremely highly regarding for it's Italian food - has the same owner - and apparently same standards. I have enjoyed the wine here a LOT, especially when I take the time to discuss my choice ahead of time with one of the folks there particularly knowledgable about their wines. Prices are not out of line for this kind of place. You can ring up a huge bill FAST at ANY place specializing in small plate food and wine by the glass, whether it's San Francisco or San Carlos. I know wine bars where the average price per glass is much higher. $10 for a glass might translate into $40 or $50for a bottle in the restaurant, or $18 in retail shop ($12 on sale?). That's normal for wine bars and restaurants, sorry. The restaurant staff includes quite a few young people who were raised in this lovely small town. I felt that their spirit more than outweighed inexperience when Cask first opened, but YMMV. Now they all strike me as very profession. BTW, If you want to see this place really hopping BUSY, try Thursday or Friday evenings. Generally it is very slow in the afternoons, and not overly busy on other evenings.

            2 Replies
            1. re: artmaltman

              Hello first time poster,

              Other long time posters have described the food as "Sysco" and the wine as overpriced *for what you get*, and not unusual. I'm certainly not going out of my way for Ravenswood.

              What dishes did you have, and what wines?

              1. re: artmaltman

                Yes, please tell us what you ate. Platitudes aside, I'd be curious to know what exactly did it for you at this place. We gave up after the soggy flatbread. Even Town, which has its executional ups and downs, seems to be much better for the buck.

                I'd be curious to know which other wine bars you thinking of in your comparison. Where else have you gone that you felt was in line with Cask?