Over the course of the past few months, I’ve discovered that the best thing to do during a Midwest winter is to eat.

Living downtown Ft Wayne, I’ve had the chance to explore a fair amount of the local foodie scene, some of which has been great, but none of which has stood out as particularly exceptional or unforgettable (from a food standpoint at least – I’ve had some rather interesting dining companions…)

Until now.

A few evenings ago my sister and brother-in-law, two of my favorite humans, took me on a tri-date to wind down the winter at Wine Down, a chic wine and tapas bar a few blocks from my West Central studio.
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It was an evening that we had to wait a long time for (two babies, winter illnesses, hibernation struggles, etc), but it was worth every millisecond of the wait.

From the extensive wine bar tasting options to the dim lighting and cozy nooks, Wine Down presents a silky-smooth medley of romance, elegance, and class, with a dash of comfortably-casual charm that makes you feel right at home.

I’d never been to a bar that had wine tasting machines…wine on tap…and found the concept quite intriguing. I was swayed, however, by the two-page menu of craft cocktails with their wine infusions, unique combinations, and hot pepper tinctures. Spicy cocktails are my weakness.
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We started the evening with three of the shareable tapas – Mahi Mahi Tacos, Papas Fritas, and Sweet Potato Fries. The sweet potato fries, with their pumpkin espresso ketchup, were a favorite.

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Shrimp ‘n grits brings back fond memories of my sister and bro-in-law’s visits to Charleston when that charming-but-flaky southern city was my home, so when we saw it on the menu, we had to try. I was a bit skeptical (Fort Wayne is, after all, pretty far from shrimp ‘n grits country) but with it’s perfectly-blackened shrimp and creamy gouda grits, it was – no lie – the best I’ve ever had.

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My companions had been on a (two-some) date here in the past, so my sister called ahead to reserve us the best table in the house, which happens to be in its own cozy nook, with couches, brick walls, and a perch overlooking the lower bar area that is perfect for people watching. Having your own cozy nook at Wine Down is a must, so if you check it out, be sure to call ahead for a reservation and request this.

Notice the frogs on the walls – I purchased two tiny frog pieces from this artist during an art show at Wunderkammer during a visit from Maui a year ago, and was quite happy to see them on display in large scale. Frog art at a chic wine and tapas bar might sound odd, but trust me, they’re classy frogs. They wear ties.

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The best part of the Wine Down evening were these two…thanks for the tri-date guys!

We finished the evening with chocolate mousse, caramel apple crostata, and desert cocktails, and just writing about it is making me feel ravenously hungry for all of it again.

I love it when chefs get artistic with their food, and the presentation of every dish we tried was inspiring (if you don’t find inspiration in beautiful food, perhaps you should start paying more attention to life in general.)

Going back to Wine Down before I move to Puerto Rico in a few months is definitely on my bucket list, and if you happen to live in Fort Wayne, it should probably be on yours, as well. I’ve heard they have an outdoor patio with live music in the summer… and twinkle lights.