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.
The Sample Room
2124 NE Marshall St., Minneapolis
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.
1320 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
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.
La Bodega Restaurant &Amp; Lounge/Tapas Bar
3001-3005 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
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.
810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
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.
222 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
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).
80 S. Eighth St., Minneapolis
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.
Highland Grill &Amp; Cafe
771 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul
This diner offers a classic feel with a kick. While the bouncy red booths and sparkly vinyl tables scream 1950s, the apple martini walls and track lighting let you know that this is no time warp. Much like the decor, meals are classic diner fare with a twist. For example, grilled cheese sandwiches have tangy chutney, and the black bean falafel sandwiches come with pineapple and poblano-peanut-pesto aioli. Tuesday nights feature half-priced bottles of wine, so with most dishes running in the $9 and under range, and appetizers at $5 or less, you really can afford to drop some cash on the small but respectable list of $30-ish American and French varieties. And you can afford to stroll over to the movie theater across the street or to one of the nearby bookstores afterward.
French Meadow Bakery &Amp; Café
2610 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
French Meadow, with its casual, simple wooden tables and wall of sunny windows, offers up its entire wine list Saturday night at half price with the purchase of an entrée, which can include organic salads, pastas, and sandwiches. Wines, much like the menu, vary by the season, but the current list includes a sampling from Italy, France, Spain, California, and Australia. There are also several organic varieties and even a sulfite-free chardonnay. Popular choices include reds such as the Domaine la Montagnette Côtes-du-Rhône, a blend of syrah, grenache, and mourvedre, and whites including the Trebbiano di Lugana.
(The purchase of an entrée or other conditions sometimes apply; please call before setting out.)
El Meson; Sunday through Thursday
3450 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Oddfellows; Monday and Wednesday
401 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Mpls Café; Monday through Thursday
1110 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Sawatdee Uptown; Monday through Wednesday
2650 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
Downtowner Woodfire Grille; Monday and Tuesday
253 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
Erté; Monday and Tuesday
1304 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis
101 Blu; Tuesday through Thursday
3001 Hennepin Ave. S. (Calhoun Square), Minneapolis
Modern Café; Tuesday
337 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
Azia; every day from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
and 10:00 p.m. to close
2550 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
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