Call me insane, but I think charcuterie boards are overrated. If I must be the one to face a public lashing for saying it, I volunteer as tribute. *insert three finger salute* And as for wine, it has yet to satisfy this inexperienced palate unless I’m ready to slip into something cozy with the full intention of drifting off to sleep — with the expectation that the glass will still be half full when I wake the next morning.
But, unfortunately for me, I have to accept the fact that meat, cheese, and wine will forever be perceived as the perfect threesome, giving to one another without jealousy. So when a wine bar dares to defy the rules of engagement between snacks and wine in an unpretentious and totally approachable environment with a side of hip-hop, curiosity will kill this cat. Enter Bar à Vins.
Located on North Davidson Street, next to the fire station, this swanky, not-so-little wine bar had me in a chokehold from the moment I discovered that the snack menu included tinned fish and caviar. You can take the girl out the country, but you can’t take the country out the girl; this lil lady has been eating canned fish her whole life.
So when bae suggested we check it out, I started practicing my “wine swirl” with my pinky up in all my wannabe sommelier glory.
As we closed in on the front door, the warm light spilled into the street from the window and I could feel my jowls watering along with that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you’re getting buzzed at a holiday house party. Just inside the door, I felt the moody ambiance pulling us toward two empty bar seats patiently waiting for us to settle into them.
My eyes darted around the room like a kid in a candy store. Was anyone else eating the “Even Fancier Caviar” so I could window shop and visually taste test the snack I was getting ready to pay 36 whole-ass dollars for.
The remnants of the dish: a crumpled Lay’s potato chip bag; a small, white paper ketchup cup once filled with what I assume was creme fraîche; a plastic spoon licked clean; and a plate of ice holding a completely empty caviar tin missing the brininess of the caviar with every passing minute.
The bartender greeted us in a way that felt familiar versus judgmental and our fears that we would be branded with the scarlet letter equivalent for lowbrow wine drinkers subsided. Per the website, Bar á Vins is “the wine shop and bar you didn’t know you needed.” And after realizing that I was involuntarily bobbing my head to Black Star’s “Respiration” feat. Common, I knew the website was right.
No one who’s obsessed with NoDa ever really talks about what NoDa “needs,” mostly just what they miss about what the neighborhood once was. But this time, it feels like “the powers that be” got something right — like Bar á Vins found a home without even trying too hard.
“What do you have like pinot grigio,” I asked nervously after looking over the menu and seeing that “old faithful” wasn’t available. The bartender brought over two options without even a hint of pomposity and helped me decide on a chenin blanc while the boyfriend opted for the single orange wine on the menu.
On the other hand, Duck Rillettes, Even Fancier Caviar Service, and Spiced Tuna Pâté rolled off our tongues like we’d visited many times before.
I would’ve opted for a cracker of sorts over the crunchy Verdant bread to spread the pâté over, but the rationale works: there is then more room for another tin of fish — like the ever so familiar texture of canned sardines. Though, one could argue, a single spoonful of the spreadable fish and duck didn’t need a cracker or bread, either could be thoroughly enjoyed in solitude.
I was so excited to taste the caviar that I forgot to capture the black balls of salty delight for photo evidence before diligently configuring the perfect “bite” on a single Lay’s potato chip. I’ve never chewed so deliberately in my life, savoring every melt-in-your-mouth cent worth of the “whopping” one-ounce tin.
Don’t get me wrong, I have very little skin in the caviar game, but I can tell you where I’ve had shitty caviar and I can tell you that it ain’t Bar à Vins. I would happily get two all to myself and I’d still want more. When is tax refund season again? Asking for a friend.