Louie’s Wine Dive is really about the wine. It’s not like they don’t try to make this obvious. The name of the place ought to be a giveaway. The wine list has pretty much nothing in common with any of the wine lists of any other hundred or so restaurants I’ve been to during the last couple of years. The bar runs nearly the entire depth of the room and almost all of the tables are bar height. So, this is about wine. It is hard to write a review about a place that sells products sold by others, so I’m left with writing about the style, ambiance, the nature of the wine selections, the price points, and lets not forget the food.
During our visit the place was packed, though not uncomfortably so. The crowd was fairly mixed in age and gender. There were a few TVs set up behind the bar for those who can’t eat without watching guys play with balls. I suppose that this helps keep some of the crowd that might ordinarily head to a sports bar. I can hear the conversations now: “Honey, lets have dinner at Louie’s Wine Dive, that new wine bar in the Uptown Shopping Center.” “Awww babe, I wanted to watch the game tonight!” “Honey, they have TVs above the bar!” “OK, . . . I guess.” Checkmate. The lighting was above average, dark enough that there was a sense of privacy yet not so dark you couldn’t tell if your wine was a white or a red.
The wine list is focused on unique wines that I bet you’ve never heard of before. We chose a bottle of Coppola Winery Pinot Noir Votre Santé. For $32 we got a very nice Pinot Noir. It was about average on the fruit, very light on the tannins, and had some acid in the finish. It is true that you pay a bit more than twice the retail cost, but the above-average wine selections at affordable price points make it worth it. The wine list is directed by one of Central Iowa’s best known wine retailers, Kyl Cabbage. He is familiar to every serious wine drinker in Central Iowa. If you don’t know who he is, then you are not a serious wine drinker.
The food is surprisingly good for a wine bar. It won’t stand up to the top-tier foodie restaurants in Des Moines, but it can hold its own with the next level and solidly beat everything else. We started off with flatbread ($9). We ordered the pork rillettes with roasted butternut squash, basalmic onions, apple slaw and a lime sour cream, all served on crispy Lavosh bread. Wow. This was fantastic and easily as good or better than any other flatbread combo I’ve tried.
I tried the Porchetta, which was Berkshire pork shoulder rolled with La Quercia proscuitto, fresh sage and Fontina cheese. It was served on a bed of drunken carrots. The pork was not only cooked perfectly, but there was a lot of it. You get two four or five ounce rounds with this dish. It was maybe $16, which is really a pretty good deal for a quality cut of meat. The carrots were really crunchy and tasty.
Others in our party ordered shrimp with grits ($16) and a wild mushroom ragù ($15). The sauces tended to drown out the flavor in these dishes; the shrimp were overcome by the creamy, cheesy grits. The salmon salad ($14), on the other hand, was delicious and perfect according to another in our party.
Desserts are also available. The waiter brought out a plate with a variety to choose from, several of which featured seasonal specialties, such as the white-chocolate peppermint crème brûlée and fruitcake. Unfortunately, we only learned later that if you order S’mores that they bring out some fire that you can use to melt the marshmallow.
Mon 4:00pm – 11:00pm
Tue & Wed 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Thur – Sat 11:00 am – 2:00 am
Sat & Sun Brunch 9 am – 3pm
4040 University Ave, Suite A
Des Moines, IA 50311