Here’s a story about finding a nearly perfect wine bar in the most unexpected of places. If a wine bar like this opened in the Twin Cities, it would be packed every night, guaranteed.
Last August and September we took a blissful ten days off and went to the Black Hills of South Dakota. No cell phones, no laptops, a complete unplugging of our life in order to recharge the mental batteries (and it worked).
While in Rapid City (population 59,607) we visited a place I’ve had my eye on for a few years: Wine Cellar Restaurant. I could give the address (you can find it on their website) but the easier way to describe the location is “right on the main drag.” Rapid City should be named Rapid Village or Rapid Town. It’s small in the glorious and wonderful sense, and not hard to find something when your only direction is “downtown”.
I get pretty cynical about restaurants, for I’ve worked in, operated, organized, and dined in my fair share of them. Big mistakes piss me off to no end (before wandering to Wine Cellar we were at a good Italian restaurant around the corner … one of those places that is open for lunch but awkwardly shuts down between 2:00 and 5:00 … and basically got forced out when I tried to order more food and the indifferent waitress said ‘oh, we’re closed and the chefs went home’… urgh!!!). Little mistakes I’m very good at picking up on but also dismissing … I’ll never short tip a server for forgetting that I asked for no ice in my water, for instance.
However, it is truly rare that an establishment simply does everything right and does it in a pleasant, confident, cool manner. Wine Cellar Restaurant did it. A few of the highlights:
- Over forty wines by the glass including wonderfully obscure varietals like Fiano and Lemberger, on top of a serious line up of Rhone Varietals, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blancs, and more.
- GREAT STEMWARE … the number one issue at most places trying to be ‘wine serious’. The Wine Cellar served everything in Riedel, with different stems for lighter whites, fuller whites, lighter reds, fuller reds, bubbly, and dessert. I find it amazing (and inexcusable) how many restaurants in the Twin Cities refuse to take stemware seriously.
- A personable server who was perfectly fine with me ordering just glasses of wine and no food.
- Hours of operation were 3:30 to close. This is simple, and genius. You get the post lunch crowd and the early off work crowd. I can’t tell you how much money many wine bars miss out on by opening at 5pm. Many people want to rush from work to the wine bar for a quick one with friends. If it’s 4:40 they are not going to wait for you to unlock the door. Open at 3:30 and I guarantee you it will be worth it.
Mad props to Pamela Light, owner and chef, for putting a gem of a wine bar in a city that most people would not expect to find one.