Allegheny Wine Mixer not meant to feel like 'hotel lobby'
If you can't find a wine bar you like, invent your own.
That was Jamie Patten's solution.
“I love good wine and good beer. But, when I went to wine bars, I never was very comfortable in them,” Patten says. “They felt like hotel lobbies. I felt they needed to be reinvented.”
Last August, Patten opened the Allegheny Wine Mixer in Lawrenceville.
Open Wednesday through Sunday evenings, it has become a popular drop-in spot for neighborhood people as well as those waiting for a table at nearby restaurants. Soothing blue walls are covered with an art collection predominated by kitschy paint-by-numbers masterpieces, and music plays softly in the background.
One thing you won't find is a television.
“It's distracting, unpleasant. I felt like bars have just become places to watch TV. People won't talk to each other,” Patten says. Without the TV, conversation flows, across and even between tables. “People make friends here,” she says.
From 8 to 11 p.m. most Thursdays, live musicians may be on hand playing anything from DJ-driven old Motown hits or folk or jazz. But there's only room for two musicians, and Patten promised the music is “backgroundy, not aggressive.”
On a hot summer evening, the bar is a dark, cool place to relax with a glass of one of the 40 wines or 20 beers — six on tap on the carefully chosen lists. Wines range from $7 to $14 a glass or $28 to $50 a bottle, beers from $2 to $18.
Adventurous types may opt for the $5 wine of the day or the daily comparison — a pair of 3-ounce pours that are priced between $8 and $10.
If you're not sure what you want or want to try something new, the staff is happy to weigh in with suggestions or descriptions.
“We're trying to reach out to wine nerds. We've got a lot of cool stuff on our wine list,” Patten says. “If you do know about wine and want to have a conversation, we do that, too.”
One of the wine cocktails — The Harlot ($8) — was a tasty and refreshing concoction of pinot noir, brut rose, Chambord and a twist of lemon.
The Allegheny Wine Mixer is a great source for snacking.
“That's the biggest surprise,” Patten says. “Almost everyone who comes in gets something to eat.”
Patten has put together a selection of cheese and charcuteries that can be ordered in preset combos or mixed and matched to individual tastes.
Some are locally sourced from Wild Purveyors, just down the block. The Beef Jerky ($1.50) comes from D.J.'s Butcher Block in Bloomfield.
Cheese and meat selections run $4 to $5. Preset plates are $12 and $13.
They're served on slate rectangles with thin slices of French bread and an assortment of embellishments, including a few berries and slices of ripe pear, some olives on the stem, cornichons (tiny French pickles) and a dab of fig jam surrounded by four cashews.
We enjoyed the Leonora ($4), a creamy Spanish cheese with a hint of lemon, the Ba Ba Blue ($4), a sheep cheese from Wisconsin and some tissue-thin slices of prosciutto ($4) from Parma Sausage Co. in the Strip and the Creminelli Wild Boar Salami ($4) from Italy.
It was more than sufficient for two people hoping to stave off predinner hunger.
A selection of Toasties ($5) — grilled cheese sandwiches cut into quarters for sharing — and a Chocolate Plate ($6) of Sinful Sweets confections also are available.
The Allegheny Wine Mixer, 5326 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Details: 412-252-2337 or www.alleghenywinemixer.com
Alice T. Carter is staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.