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Friday, November 23, 2012 / 7:00 AM

Heads Up: Ben Poremba's New Wine Bar, Olio, Packs 'Em In

Heads Up: Ben Poremba's New Wine Bar, Olio, Packs 'Em In

Photography by Kylah Brown Green

As a writer, I'm conflicted whenever I come across a hidden gem—a great restaurant or bar that isn't quite as crowded as it deserves to be. Do I tell people how cool the place is, or do I keep the precious intel to myself?

Olio, the wine bar complement to the newly opened Elaia, is such a place. I arrived one week after the grand opening, on a Wednesday, fully expecting the honeymoon rush to be over and to have my pick of seats. Instead, I found the front bar area completely packed with respectable thirty- and forty-somethings opining about their libations. My drinking partner and I had to resort to a polite hover, waiting for two gentlemen to vacate their posts in the 12-seat bar. But the wait gave us time to soak in the dilapidated-chic decor of the gently rehabbed garage: cracked tile and contractor's penciled notations remained on the wall.

Once seated, we promptly ordered two glasses of wine. In a hurry to have sweet elixir touch my lips ASAP and based on the assumption that owner Ben Poremba, darling of artisanal charcuterie shop Salume Beddu, wouldn't have anything less than respectable on his menu, I went with the cheapest glass on offer. At $8, the 2010 Renzo Masi Rufina Riserva Sangiovese didn't disappoint.

With initial lubrication underway, we were able to patiently and pointedly peruse the menu. I was delighted to find that my grape-du-jour, Argentina's bonarda, was on the menu at an approachable $10. Cocktails, also priced at $10, were cool-cat takes on classics, identified by decade: 1880s Martinez (a Manhattan's kin) or the 1920s Between the Sheets.

Beer aficionados will see familiar friends in the local Perennial and Urban Chesnut selections or can merrily venture across the pond with ales from Germany, Belgium, and Italy.

If you're feeling peckish, small bites abound. You can't go wrong with the charred eggplant dip or a charcuterie plate. And the bread and olive oil are killer.

1634 Tower Grove Ave.
(314) 932-1088

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