It’s like walking into a surprise party: You would never expect such a cool, contemporary ambience and sophisticated menu from a strip mall corner restaurant that calls itself a wine bar.
Blue walls, blue lights, blue tile, “deepblue” as the WiFi password and even a blue water feature.
French wine bars inspired C Level's interior design — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
On the sleek bar and tables, blue bulbs light glass containers filled with faux ice cubes to give the illusion of wine buckets. Brilliant!
Behind the bar, live music videos play on a flat-screen TV set into a blue backlit wall of glass. High-top tables surround the bar, typically filled by loyal fans who return often and are treated like family.
They range from young professionals to winter snowbirds. Most come to eat dinner, but others sit at the bar and sip, perhaps order some tapas and socialize.
In winter, diners take to outdoor tables lit by cool blue orbs and surrounded by potted plants to block out traffic along Bonita Beach Road.
The wine list, of course, is vast. It includes unusual and little-heard-of wines, nearly 50 of which you can sample by the glass – wines such as Moscato, Malbec and Riesling that you don’t often see offered by the glass.
You can order Champagne or even a Chateauneuf du Pape by the glass. They range in price from $8 to $20 per glass. During happy hour (4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.), select glasses are $5 each, and the rest are $3 off.
There’s also draft and bottled beers, including some craft beers – all $3 during happy hour.
The restaurant’s owner Anthony Denson curates and samples all 170 wines on the lists.
“We want to complement the French cuisine on our menu, but we also offer a wide mix of wines and value,” Denson says.
C Level serves typical wine bar noshes and tapas, but also full dinners in classic French style.
Some house specialties include the French onion soup, so cheesy it's served with a pair of scissors; a shareable charcuterie platter with a tantalizing assortment of French cheeses, duck saucisson, foie gras, smoked duck breast and pork chop; baked camembert; fine steaks; duck with raspberry sauce; and killer crab cakes.
The latter comes as a salad with arugula or as a dinner entrée, where two tall cakes topped with dill aioli are virtually free of binders.