But a tradition is a tradition, so when Prof. A. asked if I wanted to join him for the opening of MJ's Wine Bar last night, as we have made a habit of this year (see our "First Looks" at In'Finiti, Little Tap House, P&R Public House), I went along to see what this new wine bar entailed.
And as I stood at the top of the non-moving escalators inside One City Center, looking down into the empty food court, I felt a sense of dread. And confusion.
But after looking at facebook photos that showed a street level entrance, I walked outside the building into Monument Square, went down a few steps, and then rounding a corner, found a little patio with bistro style tables and umbrellas and plenty of al fresco wine drinkers. So one can easily forget that this space is technically in a soulless office building, and rather look out over Free Street and down into the heart of the Old Port. Perfectly positioned.
Inside, the space is light and airy, but with warm, dark woods and leather couches, creating a coffee shop/cafe feel, but also slightly living room-ish (complete with record player and all). We sat on a couch with a low table in front of some floor to ceiling windows.
Wines are available by the half glass, full glass or bottle, and there is an interesting selection of imported bottled beers and local draught beers as well. I started with a glass of GSM, then a glass of sparkling rose, and a half glass of a Torrontes, which the obliging staff picked out for me when I asked for the weirdest or most challenging white they had. (I was having a "life is so hard" moment and didn't have the enthusiasm to pick out my own wine.)
We also shared an amazing spread of cheese, nuts, and olives, all ordered a la carte, with the cheese selections accompanied by mustard, baguette, and pickled vegetables.
I hear 'wine bar,' and I think 'stuffy.' But this place, run by an affable man named Mark who used to bartend at Little Tap House, has not one fleck of pretentiousness. The staff is clearly knowledgeable, but will help you out when you just want a glass of wine and don't care what it is. I think MJ's wine bar is a welcome addition to this awkward little corner of space where Monument Square meets Free Street.