33 Wine Shop & Bar Is a Grown-Up Delight

Aug 15, 2019 at 9:24 am
click to enlarge The list of wine by the glass at 33 Wine Shop & Bar is tightly, smartly curated and changes frequently. - RFT file photo
RFT file photo
The list of wine by the glass at 33 Wine Shop & Bar is tightly, smartly curated and changes frequently.

When I was a younger woman, I loved dive bars. I’ve never actually read Bukowski, so I can’t blame his literary stylings, although I know many other poseur undergrads surely do. In my case, the attraction was likely the sheer distance from the suburban milieu in which I’d been raised. Nothing could be further from a boring bedroom community with McMansions and Applebees and Houlihans than a dark bar filled with hilarious lowlifes, its floor sticky with spilled whiskey and its walls stained with nicotine. I wanted to be the kind of person who drank there, I suppose, and so for a long time I was.

Now that I am grown, I’ve put childish things behind me, or at least heavy drinking, at least for now. I’ve got two kids, and if one isn’t waking me up at three in the morning, the other makes up for it at six. I once came home reeking of cigarettes and gin and fed a baby at two in the morning. There is no greater shame.

And so today I love 33 Wine Shop & Bar (1913 Park Avenue, 314-231-9463). It too is miles from cookie-cutter suburban chains with their sugary drinks and forced gaiety, but in a way that feels sophisticated, not seedy. The walls are cool and white, the light pours in from the street-facing windows and the prevailing sound is that of conversation. Like the dive bars of my youth, this is a place where you could have a drink or get drunk, but it’s also a place where you could explore. The list of wine by the glass is tightly, smartly curated and changes frequently. You’re meant to talk to the bartender about your preferences, not look for something obvious that you already know. As for these barkeeps, they tend to be both entirely approachable and very wise; tell them you like a white Burgundy from France and they’ll steer you to something that is neither a Burgundy nor French, but somehow just right. This is what wine bars are for, or at least should be: exploration. There is also a patio, and if the 20something me liked the darkness and rot of smoke and whiskey, the 40something me much prefers a breeze wafting through a brick-lined alley.

I suppose there is a good chance that once I am again child-free I will go back to drinking at bars surrounded by people with half their teeth and damaged livers. I do have a weakness for the 2 a.m. drunken confession, and if I go back to indulging it, St. Louis has plenty of hideaways for me. But until then, on the rare afternoon that I’m able to sneak away from both laptop and children, there is always a glass of rose at 33 Wine Shop & Bar, a friendly bartender with a sympathetic pour, the quiet buzz of friendly conversation. Seasons change. And at 33, the one I’m in feels delightful.

This review is part of our 2019 Bar Guide. Find out our other favorite St. Louis bars here.

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