Vintage Bargains

One more reason to toast: Half-price wine nights have caught on all over the Twin Cities

By Jessica Armbruster and Lindsey Thomas

Some like their wine light and fruity, others like it ruby red and peppery. Some have been dying to try that one syrah that keeps popping up on wine lists, but just haven't been able to afford it, while others have absolutely no clue where to start but are open to experimentation. For wine lovers on a budget or beginners who are overwhelmed by snobby lists that can easily top 50 bottles, we present a list of metro area restaurants offering half-price wine nights.

Splurge--in fact, go crazy. It's summertime, and none of the hot spots listed here will pick the last dime out of your pockets.

 

Sunday

The Sample Room
2124 NE Marshall St., Minneapolis
612.789.0333

It's the 1890s all over again in this casual-friendly saloon. After all, an earlier version of the Sample Room existed in the same historic northeast Minneapolis location. And although the decor is very much turn-of-the-century (Victorian wallpaper, barstool seating facing a mirrored bar filled with bottles of every shape, size, and concoction), the menu is a pleasant mix of old and new. From posh dishes like baked goat cheese or chocolate truffles to casual American dishes like beer-steamed shrimp or meatloaf and mashed potatoes, there's something to please both your uncle and your hipster friend. While there's always beer on tap, the 23 bottles that have traveled around the world to be on the Sample Room's wine list are not overshadowed, especially on Sunday when they're half-price. Popular choices tend to be reds, and include classic yet ever-evolving chiantis (garnet-colored, woodsy, and warm), Altos Las Hormigas Malbec (full-bodied, yet delicately berry-flavored), and the fruity Arbanta Rioja.

Campiello
1320 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
612.825.2222

Given the undeniably romantic lighting and the rustic northern Italian decor and cuisine, it seems downright criminal not to order wine at Campiello. Half-price wines are available on Sunday nights with the purchase of two entrées (which include a variety of pastas, grilled chicken, salmon, and pork tenderloin). The list contains upward of 60 bottles, including classic Italian and more adventurous California varieties (the staff recommends the Sienna Ferrari-Carano, a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon), and with prices ranging from $21 to $130 (before the discount) you can find the perfect pairing for any budget.

 

Monday

La Bodega Restaurant &Amp; Lounge/Tapas Bar
3001-3005 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
612.823.2661

Between its playful, sunshine-yellow tapas bar and serious, midnight-blue restaurant, La Bodega serves up an admirable yin and yang combination of Spanish and Italian cuisine and wine. And on Monday nights you can experience the wines of Spain and Italy for half the price at either restaurant. If you want to go Spanish, sit back at the high-spirited and vibrant tapas bar and listen to music while enjoying small plates of Spanish specialty appetizers, or maybe just an olive or cheese plate. Or you can ante up for a posh night in La Bodega's restaurant, where pricier but worthy entrées will make the most of the wine list's Italian selections. While the summer wine selection is still being decided, the current list contains 30 to 40 bottles, with a few selections from Argentina, Australia, and California.

Bryant-Lake Bowl
810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
612.825.3737

Bryant-Lake Bowl has it all: varied food, a respectable wine and beer list, a great theater space for live music and comedy shows, and, of course, bowling. Monday nights make things even better with Cheap Date Night. For the scandalously low price of $25 dollars you get two entrées (a consistent yet hip menu that includes ahi tuna; flank steak fajitas; spinach, feta, and artichoke pasta; and pad Thai), a bottle of wine, and a round of bowling to top the evening off. Cheap dates choose between a red and white wine that's picked weekly from among the menu's 50-plus bottles. Bryant-Lake Bowl also hosts a Tuesday "Wine Roulette," where patrons sip while grooving to Sussed!, a weekly music event hosted by DJs the Guv'nor and Ed A. that includes grooves set to indie rock, mod, big beat, soul, and roots reggae.

 

Tuesday

Bobino Café
222 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
612.623.3301

The ambience is friendly, the lighting is a welcoming warm orange glow, and there are plenty of stylin' Aveda Institute beauties to chat up at the bar. On Tuesdays the purchase of an entrée (sautéed salmon and balsamic-glazed chicken are some examples) will allow you to get joyfully lost in the 40-plus bottles on the wine list--which features selections from Australia, California, France, Italy, South America, and South Africa--for half price. The list rotates each month, making the current selection all the more special. Summertime favorites here tend to be whites, whether they're fruity, dry, sweet or light. Patrons tend to gravitate toward chardonnay (the staff recommends the Hahn) and sauvignon blancs (Kenwood Reserve is popular).

Mission American
80 S. Eighth St., Minneapolis
612.339.1000

This amicable, casual addition to the IDS Center is located in the old Aquavit space. While its dining crowd is often an eclectic mix of businessmen, lovebirds (thanks to its natural-hued, pleasantly lit decor), and families, the bar scene tends to be a little more trendy. The bar itself boasts a track that's completely frozen over and maintained by drinkers who elect to play with Mission's miniature radio-controlled zambonis. It's a bizarre experience for even the most jaded hipsters. On Tuesday nights half-priced wines from the 100-bottle list are available with an order of food (try the excellent catfish and homemade fries or the ribs). Popular reds include the Qupe Bien Nacido syrah, the Ridge Lytton Springs zinfandel, and the Louis Latour Vignes Franches Burgundy. Popular whites include the Dr. R. Prume riesling (fruity and crisp-perfect for light summer dining), the Cakebread chardonnay, and the Caymus Conundrum, a blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Manager Chad Waldon's personal favorite is the Bodegas Faustino Rioja.

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