Posted On: 04/10/2002
Lafayette Square was founded as one of the first upscale suburbs of early Saint Louis. Historic, elegant townhouses surround the periphery of the historic walking park, separated by wide streets that were designed to be used as parade routes.
While Lafayette Square has gone through many changes in its one-hundred-plus years of existence, the "high society" spirit of the neighborhood is still apparent in one of the latest additions to the scenečthe upscale Wine Bar 33, located in the row of businesses just northeast of the park, rubbing shoulders with a handful other exclusive restaurants and galleries.
Proprietor Jake Hafner is a native Saint Louisan who garnered his experience as a wine merchant in New York. The business is both a wine bar and a retail outlet for wine. With eight bottles on tap and over 220 different wines available, it is clear that Hafner's passion is not just the wine itself, but introducing his customers to something new. And while wine bars tend to be upscale in nature and pricey, Hafner has made this one accessible to both the experienced wine connoisseur who's willing to spend to get what he wants, and the wine novice on a limited budget. 33 offers diverse choices, but many selections are reasonably priced. (Hafner supplies an eclectic selection of brews, as well, but the bar's forte is obviously wine.)
The "chic coast" vibe of 33 is evident in the finely-tuned minimalist decor: pin lights, high ceiling, hardwood floors, and high design furnishings that include several tall, round, bar tables placed along art-adorned, clean, white-painted brick walls. A storefront entrance with floor-to-ceiling windows beckons pedestrians. The bar lines the opposite wall of the shotgun-style, cozy interior. The wine cellar is visible from the bar, just up a few steps behind the glass doors of a climate-controlled room. A back hallway opens onto an intimate, bricked patio courtyard.
The smartly-lit interior compliments the overall energy of the room; low ambient jazz permeates the atmosphere. The straightforward, high design reflects the simple and sincere goal of 33: to promulgate the joys of indulging in wine.
33 is a natural pick for a romantic nightcap, or as a full-service wine store where the patron can sample before buying. The crowd is very progressive, a good mix of ages and lifestyles, tending toward young and hip professionals. Many of the patrons live in the area of Lafayette Square, which provides a neighborhood vibe that is atypical in the wine bar scene.
Hafner, himself, is an important element of the atmosphere, balancing the personal touch and character of an Everyman's bartender with the sophisticated knowledge of his passion.
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