One of the missions of a wine bar, it would seem, is to be both welcoming and urbane, to finesse its way into that sweet spot where neighborhood bar meets hip urban hangout.
Two that manage to accomplish the feat lie in distinctly different areas of Minneapolis: one the edge of downtown, near the burgeoning riverfront district; the other also perched near the Mighty Mississippi but in the rapidly morphing Longfellow neighborhood.
SPILL THE WINE
The wines: An interesting but rather safe selection that includes no fewer than 40 wines by the glass, which span the globe to bring you a constant variety of juice. The list focuses on intermediate price points, and during the 4-to-7 p.m. happy hour, eight wines are available for $15 a bottle.
The grub: The smallish menu is very wine-friendly, with a half-dozen entrees and some great starters (the shrimp/scallop skewers make a nice small meal). The $5 calamari and bruschetta during happy hour help make this a good nosh stop before a show at the nearby Guthrie Theater.
The vibe: With its champagne-colored exposed brick and modern-warehouse accoutrements, this space wouldn't look out of place in Dwell magazine. It's lighter and brighter than most wine bars, with vibrant art almost popping off the walls. The wine barrels propping up the bar are an especially nice touch.
The vitals: 1101 Washington Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-339-3388
RIVERVIEW WINE BAR AND CAFE
The wines: The broadest, most eclectic by-the-glass list in town, offering up to a dozen cleverly matched four-wine flights and 73 wines by the glass. The pours are generous, but those who like to swirl their wine are out of luck with the squat glasses. On Wednesdays and Sundays, customers can create their own flights, perhaps the most alluring wine deal in town.
The grub: In keeping with an eatery across the street from the Mother Earth Gardens store, the menu is veggie-heavy and ensconced in the fresh-local-seasonal-organic mode. The über-thin-crusted pizzas are yumminess incarnate, the daily soup-and-sandwich combo always worth checking out.
The vibe: With soft lighting and a gas fireplace, the space exudes warmth. It's a refreshingly casual space. The crowd, mostly garbed in black with a touch of plaid, looks like a cross-section of what one would have encountered in the Loring Cafe and the CC Club a decade ago.
The vitals: 3753 42nd Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-729-4200