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News, Notes and Dusty Bottle Items – Summer Twilight Edition

More flotsam and jetsam from a wine-fueled life …

Wine Spectator Annual Restaurant Awards

Janko’s Little Zagreb restaurant is the quintessential college town restaurant.  Located in Bloomington, IN it’s an Indiana University tradition alongside the Irish Lion and Nick’s.  Precious few students don’t make at least one pilgrimage to Zagreb’s over the course of four years of school to mark a special occasion or to soak up Dad’s ATM card on a parent’s weekend.

It’s a steakhouse throwback.  Founded in 1979, it could have just as easily been started in 1959.  It’s a homey spot with red checkered table clothes, baked potato’s wrapped in aluminum foil with enough whipped butter to close down an arterial passageway, iceberg lettuce salads and waitresses with enough mileage on them to have seen it all before most of the kids nowadays were a twinkle in their Dad’s eye.  Oh, yeah, and the steaks are tasty, too.

Most college towns have these sorts of “joints.”  Refreshingly, as is the case with Zagreb’s, most of these places are without irony, as well.  It’s a joint for the sake of being what it is, not a facsimiled approximation with a wink.

I appreciate that.

I am a fan of “joints” having previously noted that we’ll know when widespread wine culture in America has arrived when joints start getting the wine gospel.  I’ll take a local restaurant with some genuine history and wear on the edges over the Capital Grille any day of the week.


At first blush, you wouldn’t think that Little Zagreb would be a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence award winner either by dining experience or the wine list, as marked by the standards held by those who know too much about wine.  However, there is something to be said for local spots that migrate to higher ground from the chock-a-block mindlessness of wine lists filled with supermarket Cabs, Merlots and Chardonnay’s.

Many decry the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards as a capitalistic enterprise exchanging the Wine Spectator brand name and a plaque in exchange for a check; I won’t argue the fundamentals of that point.  Nor will I argue the fact that I have been to Little Zagreb’s and nobody from Wine Spectator has likely ever flown into Indianapolis and made the hour and twenty minute drive south to Bloomington.  However, I will point out that, by and large, the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards highlight independent restaurants – and whether they are white table cloth or red checkered, there’s something to be said for continuing to isolate the mostly independent restaurants in the country who attempt to make wine a serious part of their line-up.

Here are three cheers to Little Zagreb’s and the other joints in America who do it on a daily basis and serve a nice bottle of wine along the way.

Updates and Notes

As noted previously, The Markham Mark of Distinction Program is currently running and has announced their 10 finalists.  You can vote for the winner of one of two $25,000 grants to a non-for-profit that will use the money to make a mark in their local community.  I won’t name my favorite, all are worthy, but check out the site and cast your vote.

What I wrote about a year ago

The Return of Wine Hieroglyphics


Posted in, News, Notes & Dusty Bottle Items. Permalink | Comments (1) |


On 08/03, Dylan wrote:

It might be the photo and compounded by the name, but that does look to be a small restaurant. Of course a restaurant of smaller size can have its benefits—even on the slowest day the place can appear packed.


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