Since Northeast has become ground zero for breweries, things can seem that much more dire for the oenophile. Where's a wine lover to go north of the Hennepin Avenue bridge?
Stem Wine Bar. Wedged quietly on the pub-heavy block across the street from Surdyk's, Stem opens up into an elegant, adult oasis. Outside there is street hubbub and the cacophony of Pedal Pubs; inside there are diaphanous draperies, twinkling chandelier light, and wine. Lots and lots of wine.
Bar staff and management are deeply knowledgable about wine — our server had spent many years at Surdyk's and Surdyk's Flights and is also part of the team at south Minneapolis' St. Genevieve, another wine-lover's nirvana.
Stem does not make its money on expensive four- or five-ounce pours of wine; instead a good, healthy six-ounce pour in elegant glassware makes you feel like you're drinking something substantial. Wines by the glass are mid-priced, averaging around $10, but there are a few at $7 and $8.
The same standard held true for small plates, which were small only in name. The large portions made dishes easy to share, and a selection of three would make a satisfying dinner. Though, prices are also a little high, between $8 and $18.
We enjoyed a generous dish of panzanella that was happily not "deconstructed," but instead a true version of what this peasant dish ought to be — good bread tossed in olive oil and balsamic, fresh herbs, and tomatoes.
Potatoes Dauphinoise served in an earthenware pot were bewitchingly caramelized. They inspired much unladylike picking at the addictive crunch edges.
Other menu items include the ubiquitous charcuterie and cheese plates, crostini, tapenade and hummus, but also crab cakes, pork belly sliders, and lamb chops.
The room might be the prettiest in the immediate neighborhood, with soft light, intimate alcoves for canoodling, and plenty of bar space for casual drinking. In addition to wine, there's a small section of beer, and craft cocktails priced between $9 and $12.
Stem Wine Bar is a refreshing adult escape from the same ol' burgers and beer scene, where a little black dress might bump jeans to the back of the closet, and stemware edges out the tap lines.
Stem Wine Bar
24 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis