There’s a guy in a $1,200 suit next to a guy wearing flip-flops. A couple holding hands in a dark corner and two strangers chatting across the crowded bar.
It’s a typically eclectic crowd at Mike’s Wine Dive, but the customers can all count on experiencing some of the same things: inventive food, a laid-back ambiance and, most of all, great wine.
Mike’s Wine Dive opened last April to sighs of “it’s about time” from its College Hill neighbors. It was the brainchild of Whitney VinZant, who grew up College Hill and correctly deduced that Mike’s was the kind of place that would go over big in the historic neighborhood east of downtown. However, word quickly got out and today Mike’s draws fans from all over Wichita.
The classy-but-casual interior reflects what manager Brad Beyer calls its controlling idea: an utter lack of pretentiousness. In days gone by, wine might have associated with snobs, but Mike’s arrived on the scene long after those days.
“When you walk through the door here, there’s no reason anyone should feel uncomfortable,” Beyer said.
Or in a hurry. Yes, you can grab a quick lunch or dinner at Mike’s. But Beyer hopes you’ll stick around a while instead. He’s worked in some of the most successful restaurants in Wichita. And while he appreciated their approach, he was looking for something different when VinZant came calling.
“It just sounded like a perfect fit for me,” Beyer said. “It’s more a relational place where you can be friends with your guests. It’s way slower. The wine creates time for people to sit and enjoy themselves rather than just milling people through the business.”
The Dive’s forte is, of course, wine. It offers 250 different wines by the bottle and 32 by the glass, a list put together by certified sommelier Mike Murray. That’s a lot of wine to choose from, so Mike’s tries to help drinkers find what they like – and might like even more. One of the most popular ways of discovering new wines is to sample a “flight” — smaller pours of three different wines. The wines may be grouped according to what wine-making region they’re from, what variety of grape they’re made from or which winemaker bottled them.
Here are three of manager Brad Beyer’s current favorites on the wine list:
Red – Cuvee del Maule ‘09 blend, Chile
White – Copain ‘Tous Ensemble’ ‘09 viognier, U.S.A.
Sparkling – Domaine Huet ‘Petillant’ ‘05 chemin blanc, France
Servers receive extensive training on wine. “It’s crucial for them to know what they’re talking about,” Beyer said. “It really fun for me to see our servers take care of a guest.”
Mike’s menu of appetizers, sandwiches, dinner- size salads, entrees and desserts is served all day. Designed by a chef from Puerto Rico, Beyer describes it as “not spicy, but robust,” with dishes like wild boar ragu, achiote pork with fried plantains and cognac rib eye steak. Most popular of all entrees is the lobster, shrimp and crab mac and cheese.