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Finally, a west-coast style wine bar for MSP: Troubadour on Hennepin Avenue

Wine lovers rejoice! After the elimination of the stupid 70/30 law in Minneapolis, the doors have now been opened to having a wine scene more akin to that of Portland, L.A., Seattle, or San Francisco.

I’ve bemoaned for years that I couldn’t find a west-coast style wine bar in the Twin Cities. Yes, there are local wine bars I love and frequent including Terzo Wine Bar, Black Dog Wine Bar (the closest we have come to a west coast style wine bar until now), Toast Wine Bar, Foreign Legion, and more.

And yes, incredible wine by the glass programs abound at places such as Heartland, Red Cow, Scusi, W.A. Frost, Borough (review), Spoon & Stable (review), Corner Table, and many others.

But what we have been lacking is a west coast style wine bar. This style of bar abounds along the Pacific Coast, where going out for a casual glass and just a simple plate of food is far more of a nightly ritual than it is further east (where corkage fees skyrocket and eating out is more of an event). This style of bar was basically impossible to open in the Twin Cities due to our previous stupid laws, but no more!

Welcome Troubadour, which opened recently on Hennepin Avenue between Uncommon Grounds and the train tracks (2827 Hennepin Avenue South to be exact).

What is a “west coast style wine bar?” My definition includes the following:

  • Small. 30-50 seats at the most. A room that can be worked by two good servers without problem. A room where meeting people nearby feels natural. A room where there is energy but still with cozy corners to hide in.
  • A menu that is simple, short, and basically plays second fiddle to what is really important. Cheese boards. Cured meats. Olives. Nuts. Maybe some sandwiches or flatbreads. But nothing beyond that, because of the next point.
  • It’s ALL about the wine. From the moment you walk in, you know it. Chalkboards full of selections, some of them being crossed out as you walk in, replaced with new and exciting choices. Offering after offering of obscurities and curiosities.
  • Proper temperature of service. This is something I continue to gripe about as the number one problem with wine service in the Upper Midwest. Few restaurants do it right, and it makes all the difference. Add Troubadour to the list of restaurants that understand the importance of wine temperature.
  • Good stemware. It is only here that Troubadour falls a bit short, just as so many other places do. They are using hipster stemless glasses (and I get it, they are easier to wash, easier to store, and have far less breakage) which I personally don’t prefer, and they are thicker in style than I like.
  • Good wine preservation to ensure freshness and quality. The most expensive piece of equipment, by far, at Troubadour is the wine preservation cabinet (a similar style to that of Scusi, Red Cow, Terzo, and Broder’s Pasta Bar).
  • Service that is easy going and hands off. No hovering. No constant questions. No pushing dessert or joining a club. Just mellow, easy going, damn near lazy service (which in this case is totally cool).
  • An appreciation of music. Which can mean live music or simply good speakers and a turntable. Troubadour has both. During one of my visits it was all about Hall & Oates. On another it was Miles Davis. That’s an awesome spread.
  • Late hours. A west coast style wine bar is a natural magnet for restaurant industry folks to unwind and relax after a shift (when a bit of cash in the pocket has yet to be committed to bills). Staying open until 1am every night, Troubadour has checked off this box.

The owner is Phineas Fittipaldi, formerly of Mill Valley Kitchen, and rumors are that he’s burning the midnight oil on his project, as he should. It’s obviously a labor of love, and often a one man operation, which for the most part works just fine, but if a rush of business hits at the same time you walk in don’t get picky about not being fawned over right out of the gate. This is not that kind of place. Show up with the right attitude and you’ll love it.

I’m so happy this wine bar has arrived. As I told my wife, this is exactly the kind of place I wanted to open myself about ten or fifteen years ago (now, not so much … I’d rather be in the position of helping to promote it through Twin Cities Wine). I wish Phineas the best of luck with the new venture! Please check it out!

The front of my new favorite local wine bar.

The front of my new favorite local wine bar.

 

Owner Phineas Fittipaldi discussing his wine selections.

Owner Phineas Fittipaldi discussing his wine selections.

 

Well said.

Well said.

 

A solid, interesting, compelling, and challenging (in a good way) line up of selections from small producers.

A solid, interesting, compelling, and challenging (in a good way) line up of selections from small producers.

 

The perfect "just need a snack" menu to go with the wine.

The perfect “just need a snack” menu to go with the wine.

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