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Mar 23, 2018
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Nightlife: Louie's Wine Dive
By Matt Berkley | Photos by Dave Moore
Posted On: 01/04/2017   

Despite the name, the meticulously modern decor and well-curated menu belie any claim that Louieís Wine Dive in Clayton isnít fancy. You wouldnít know it to look at the place, which is hardly cookie-cutter, but Louieís is a franchise with eight locations. And itís fancy, all right Ė charming, even, and has a lot more to offer than just good looks.

The Wine Thereís no shortage of delectable and affordable wines here. The wide-ranging selection of bottles hovers around $40 to $50. There isnít a cheat sheet of descriptions, but the bartenders and wait staff are a big help in navigating the wine list, which straddles the line between entirely accessible and downright daunting, depending on how much you know about wine. I like big bold reds, and I quickly found the beautiful Il Bruciato blend for $16 a glass. Though worth it, this was definitely higher end. Most by-the-glass options come in around $8 to $12, and there are about 50 available for those who donít want to commit to a whole bottle. Even better, any bottle can be tried by-the-glass if you buy two glasses. The remains are then listed on the oversized wine board, making for an even better list.

The Cocktails Louieís is a wine bar, sure, but the cocktails alone are worth a return trip. The most enjoyable signature drink was the Clayton Cocktail, a slightly sweeter take on the Manhattan using lavender- and vanilla-infused Dolin Blanc vermouth to cut the crispness of Bulleit rye whiskey. Itís hard to imagine a better drink with which to start your night. Another enjoyable and unusual pick was the Trip to Jalisco, a warm weather margarita-type drink that deftly balanced pineapple with agave, cilantro, lime, serrano tequila and a dusting of guajillo pepper salt. Bold and fun, with each sip I mentally slipped into the sand of an imaginary tropical beach.

Happy Hour The regular afternoon and late-night happy hour deals are a steal. Generous pours of house wines are served for $5, along with $4 local beers and a handful of small plates that eat like a meal for $4 to $7. Standouts include the simple and satisfying crispy Margherita flatbread and the plump, deep-fried calamari served with an unusual, scrumptiously sweet serrano pepper sauce. The charcuterie and cheese plate is likewise fantastic to go along with a few glasses of wine. There are larger plates like the classic comfort food fish and chips and a filling pork gnocchi available for the hungry.

The Scene The primped-up crowd is typical to downtown Clayton. See-and-be-seen types clad in suits or expensive casualwear abound. Expect to come across date-night couples, young professionals, middle-aged friends meeting up for a low-key drink, and at least a few plunging necklines. This place is jazz, not hard rock. On my first visit, a waiter copped an attitude of annoyance, but overall itís a tight ship. Service is usually efficient and fast.

The Look A massive overhaul of the space stripped it down to exposed brick and threw in gorgeous marble wall coverings along with rustic, distressed barn wood and designer wallpaper. Oversized leather booths and wooden tables lend to the cheery communal vibe, as does the island bar and sizzling open kitchen. The slick, ultramodern space feels comfortable and inviting, but certainly not like a dive. High marks go to the owners for creating a vibrant and original space that lends itself to long conversations over tall glasses of wine.

Louieís Wine Dive
16 S. Bemiston Ave., Clayton, 314.875.9373, louieswinedive.com

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