Louie’s Wine Dive – a restaurant that now has seven locations across the Midwest – debuted in Clayton on June 4. The new bar and restaurant joins locations in Des Moines, Iowa; Kansas City; Indianapolis; Omaha, Nebraska; Overland Park, Kansas; and Waukee, Iowa. An eighth location for Louie’s is also planned for Indianapolis' Broad Ripple neighborhood.

“No location is the same as the next,” says founder Whitney VinZant. “When I say that, I mean it in tremendous ways. For example, each location has its own culinary and beverage programs. Each has its own look and feel.”

VinZant co-owns the brand with Corey Gonzalez. For the Clayton location, he appointed a staff that consists of general manager Jon Meinz (formerly of Pi, Brasserie and Pastaria), executive chef Patrick Baltes (formerly of Cyrano’s Cafe, Cardwell’s at the Plaza, LHM properties and Boundary) and sommelier Patrick Olds (formerly of Cielo).

Louie’s fills the 2,800-square-foot space previously occupied by Tani Sushi Bistro and currently features approximately 80 seats. The overall feel focuses on what VinZant calls “shabby chic,” featuring decorative components such as barn wood alongside marble finishes. With the goal of facilitating an energetic and interactive environment, the room features an island bar.

“Louie’s Wine Dive was founded on the principle of being passionate about food and beverage,” VinZant says. “We cut no corners in our scratch kitchen and have a very unique beverage program. We want to make wine fun, accessible and non-pretentious, which is all too rare in so many restaurants. We do that in a lot of different ways.”

In addition to offering 60 to 65 wines by the glass on its wine menu, Louie’s also features a wine board, which allows guests to try different unique wines. Louie’s will open any bottle on the menu if a guest orders two glasses, dividing the price per glass thusly. If portions remain, they are available on the wine board to all guests of the restaurant.

“If those glasses aren’t ordered within a specific time frame, then we start an auction system that allows our guests to get tremendous values,” VinZant explains. “The wine board features rare selections that we can’t purchase specifically for our menus in part because there might only be a couple bottles available.”

In addition to its extensive wine offerings, Louie’s also features a local beer menu as well as a craft-cocktail menu utilizing housemade infusions. To coincide with the prolific list of libations, chef Baltes offers tried-and-true Louie’s dishes as well as a weekly prix-fixe menu that consists of local scratch-made meals created for Clayton clientele – wine pairings also available.

“Chef Baltes is creating his weekly prix-fixe menu focused on local ingredients. There are so many great farms and produce in the backyard of St. Louis that I think the prix fixe is going to be spectacular,” VinZant says. “As we progress forward, chef Baltes will have more autonomy over the menu. However, we will keep some signature items that really represent who we are.”

A 4-pork gnocchi, for instance, features housemade gnocchi, pancetta, pork shoulder, ground pork and Italian sausage in a red-wine cream sauce. Another popular item, the crab poutine, comes with fresh lump crab, portobello mushrooms, green onion, cheese curds and seafood gravy atop crispy fries. Baltes rolls out his first prix-fixe menu this Thursday.

“We’re so excited to be part of the community in Clayton,” VinZant says. “My mother’s side of the family is in St. Louis, so I’ve been going there since I was a young boy. It’s really special to me and all of us involved in it.”

Louie's Wine Dive & Clayton Kitchen is open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm, Friday from 11am to 11pm, Saturday from 10am to 11pm and Sunday from 10am to 9pm.

Louie's Wine Dive, 16 S. Bemiston Ave., Clayton, Missouri, 314.875.9373, louieswinedive.com

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