Tonight Kim and I met up with a professor of mine from way back when we both attended Bowling Green State University who was in town for the National Women’s History Project’s National Networking Conference held on the University of Minnesota campus this weekend.
I needed a place that was in relatively close proximity to where we worked, to where Dr. Wheeler was staying, and where Kim and I could get to by 5 PM after work. I had offered Dr. Wheeler a few choices and she said any were fine. I ended up choosing Spill the Wine and made online reservations for five.
I had a meeting that was scheduled for 4 and I was concerned that it may run over and force me to be late so I suggested that Kim take the train to the Metrodome and start walking from there to meet the Doctor. My meeting let out in time and I called Kim as I was scurrying to Government Plaza to hop on the train. She waited for me at the Metrodome station where she was currently at and we both walked the handful of blocks to the restaurant.
As I approached I realized that I left my fucking SD card in the computer, again — as I have done numerous times recently, gah! — and was cursing myself as we walked up to the door. The outside looks like any downtown restaurant/bar and peering inside we saw a few happy hour lovers, 99% women, inside chatting over bottles of chilled wine on their tables. I went to the hostess and told her we had a reservation and we were quickly seated against the wall and next to a group of four women well into a bottle of wine in the center of their table.
I had to run to the restroom and when I came back Kim alerted me to happy hour appetizer and wine specials (calamari, bruschetta, and something else was on sale for $5 as well as $15 bottles of wine) and we decided to go with an order of calamari and bruschetta while we waited for Dr. Wheeler’s taxi to arrive. I asked about their beer selection and only heard “Stella” and “Summit” and decided to go with the Summit. They had at least one other beer on tap but I don’t know what it was…
The restaurant is nicely decorated but reminded me, somewhat at least, of the California Cafe at the Mall of America in Bloomington. They had cloth streamers billowing down from the high ceiling, a bar, a bunch of tables, etc. They had a lot of staff on hand that seemed to be milling around the kitchen area waiting for it to get busier I suppose. Even though they were busy chatting during our entire meal they weren’t all that disruptive and our service was fairly attentive and prompt.
The kind Doctor finally arrived and we spent a bit of time chatting over our appetizers. I wasn’t impressed with the calamari as the breading was flaking off leaving me with a slimy piece of squid that tasted extremely fishy (I can honestly say that’s a first for me with calamari) and when dipped in their tartar sauce I had an immediate rush back to my few days of eating McDonalds’ fish sandwiches as a kid. Kim said that while she wouldn’t eat the calamari without the tartar sauce (I don’t know why), she thought it was overpowering. It also came with some sort of spiciness that I couldn’t place as the peppers tossed in with the squid were sweet and not terrible hot. The bruschetta also tasted like fish and didn’t look like any bruschetta I had ever eaten before. Kim said she liked it but didn’t eat more than two pieces forcing me to not let one go to waste as the waitresses cleared our items when they brought out our main courses.
I ordered the Risotto Grilled Chicken (so did the Doctor) and Kim got the Poached Pear Salad. Mine is described in the menu as a chicken breast, risotto, wild mushrooms, fresh sage leaves and parmesan cheese. The chicken was ok (Dr. Wheeler thought it was moist but I explained that was because it was bone in and skin on which is the preferable way to cook chicken in my recent experience) but nothing fancy. The risotto was creamy, probably due to the liberal amount of melted parmesan cheese, but it was lumped together and was extremely soft and certainly not the way risotto should be cooked. I realize it’s tough to make risotto correctly but it definitely wasn’t done up to spec tonight. The mushrooms looked and tasted like sliced portobellos but as they were hidden in the risotto I couldn’t really tell for sure. For $15 the portion was appropriately sized but quality was definitely lacking. Kim’s pear salad is listed as poached Bartlet pear, pomegranate molasses, goat cheese and vinaigrette over baby field greens and was priced at $8/14. Kim asked the waitress for a rough size estimation and she offered a visual representation with her hands that seemed like 7 or 8″ square. She said the $14 salad was roughly the size of a round dinner plate. Kim ordered the $8 version and said that the vinaigrette was overpowering and too sweet (pomegranate molasses perhaps?) and wasn’t worth $8. I didn’t try any of her meal — as there just wasn’t that much so I have no idea what it was like.
I had three Summits, the Dr had a glass of dry Chardonnay and we had the meals with the two $5 appetizers. When it was all said and done, before tip, the meal was $70 and change. After a 20% tip it was $84.39. Honestly, while the service was good and the place is comfortable I can’t say that our meals were worth what we paid. I had a simple review posted to Twitter that simply said, “Quick review of Spill the Wine: overpriced and mediocre.” After mulling it over on the train ride home (we missed the last 477 out of Minneapolis for Apple Valley and had to have Chris pick us up at 28th Ave, thanks dude) I still stand by that comment.
If you’re into $15 bottles of overpriced wine and are looking for some pretty boring appetizers for $5 during happy hour then Spill the Wine might be for you. If you’re looking for a nice dinner that is executed well and is priced reasonably, I’d stay away.
Spill the Wine
1101 Washington Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55415
See all the pictures from today on Flickr here (mobile).