Once you've filled up on bread, the easiest thing to do is to have salads and then steam right on to dessert. Still, if you're of a mind to have an entrée, try the sautéed skate ($14.95), a tender wing of fish gently fried and dressed with butter and capers and accompanied by lightly steamed spinach tossed with hazelnuts and mashed skin-on red potatoes. Or there's the steak au poivre, a value at $16.95 since it's a big ol' American-size New York strip swamped with a rich sauce of whole, pickled peppercorns, shallots, Armagnac, and, I suspect, lots and lots of butter. But hey, with all the heart-healthy wine you'll be drinking, it all evens out in the end, right? (Anyone writing in to answer this will win a bottomless carafe of my scorn.)

The real meat of Zinc is the liquids. The bar boasts scads of French and Belgian beers, including La Trappe on tap ($4.50), served in its own signature broad-bellied short goblet to accentuate its sharp, biscuity, and flowery aroma. All the classic French apéritifs, like Pernod ($5), served classily in a two-glass setup, a squat glass of liqueur accompanied by a flute with ice. Pour the Pernod onto the ice and the liquid turns white and looks very dangerous indeed. There is also a bewitching assortment of house cocktails, including a seductive lemony Champagne and brandy cocktail called the Azur ($6). The "House Cocktail," a 500-milliliter bottle of spiced house brandy and rosé ($15), arrives deeply chilled and intensely pink. It starts off with a spicy burn but mellows. Seeing a tray of drinks borne away from the bar here is nearly thrilling, the glassware is so various, the drinks so diverse it looks like you're in the opening shot of some grand screwball comedy with Paulette Lombard. To make the comedy complete, stick some complimentary hard-boiled eggs in your pocket from one of the pretty wire egg-holders on the bar.

To feel less screwball, just turn your eye to the wine list, which is, in a word, smart. Stocked with almost 250 wines, this list has been chosen for both restaurant-goers looking for a beverage and sharp-eyed oenophiles looking for something good and novel. Most bottles are priced at an appropriate with-dinner level, in the $20 to $40 range. You can find a cheap, good, sturdy red to go with your garlicky brandade, like the Heredad Ugarte Crianza Rioja ($22), and you can also smack your lips over all the hard-to-find values from southern France, particularly in the grand cru Beaujolais and the southern Rhone. Sadly, there's one glaring exception to the general fitness of the list: Sparkling wines here are both expensive and unimaginative. It's enough to make a bubbly-lover throw eggs.

In fact, it was a Zinc bartender who brought up the possibility of throwing eggs. "One time they were throwing a guy out from Brit's," he told me, gesturing to one of the towers of brown and white hard-boiled eggs. "And he started whipping our eggs at them." Which is an odd way of pointing out what a cozy walking community we've finally achieved downtown. That young egg-thrower might have thought he'd need a protein snack to get to the next bar, but clearly he was remembering the Nicollet Mall of yore. So, who's going to approach the record store Let It Be about getting with the program, and sprucing up their façade with some animatronic dancing ravers?

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