Dive into Mike’s for a great time

After conquering College Hill, Mike’s Wine Dive sets its sights on the rest of Wichita’s wine and food lovers.

Story by Joe Stumpe | photography by Brian Giammasi

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.

BRAD’S PICKS

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.

Mike's Spinach and Basil Pesto

Mike's Spinach and Basil Pesto

Beyer notes that he’s “never worked in a place where I had to order so many kinds of cheese” to satisfy the kitchen – 25 by last count. Mike’s fried oysters, bruschetta and “drunken bread” — a kind of cheesy bread casserole – are among hit appetizers. When it comes to dessert, Mike’s sells more of its vanilla bean ice cream in a “chocolate bag” (the bag made by gourmet chocolatier Cocoa Dolce) than all the other options put together.

As for ambiance, Mike’s did a complete re-do of two spaces formerly used by a restaurant and hair salon to create a handsome space for about 100 people inside and 35 on the patio. Beyer loves to see College Hill neighbors amble onto the latter in good weather and order a glass of wine. Original work by local artists hangs inside. The Dive features a DJ (and $5 martinis) on Thursday night, and live music on Saturdays.

After the lobster-crab-shrimp mac and cheese, this bruschetta topping is the most-requested recipe on the menu at Mike’s Wine Dive.

MIKE’S SPINACH AND BASIL PESTO

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
7 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups fresh basil
1 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves

DIRECTIONS
Place garlic, parmesan, nuts and salt in a food processor and blend for 45 seconds (or chop together finely); scrape sides.

Add half the basil and half the olive oil; mix until basil is finely chopped, about 45 seconds. Add spinach plus the remaining basil and olive oil. Mix until spinach and basil are finely chopped and everything is well-incorporated.

NOTE: Do not over-mix, as oil may emulsify.

MIKE’S WINE DIVE, 4714 E. Douglas (Douglas + Oliver), 316-613-2772, For more info, see: www.mikeswinedive.com

 
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