Discover The Lincoln Wine Bar
Article by Jane Claspy Nesmith • Photography by Aaron Hall
On a recent weekday evening, we visited the Lincoln Winebar in scenic Mount Vernon—we wanted to try a glass of wine and some pizza from their new Italian wood-fired oven. We discovered a casually hip and friendly place, perfect for an enjoyable meal and relaxed conversation.
We were welcomed as soon as we entered the historic brownstone, and were seated at a big wooden table in the middle of the room, a perfect place for us to watch our pizzas being prepared in the custom-built wood-fired oven. Because the oven is so hot—pizzas are cooked at about 850 degrees Fahrenheit—the dough requires special ingredients and a knowledgeable touch.
After we ordered our pizza, we decided to try a few appetizers. First, a dish of marble-sized peppers—orange, red, and green—was brought out. They were Calabrian chilis from Italy, and they packed a spicy punch. On another plate was an opened tin of mussels—a surprising appetizer. “I saw these all over when I was in Spain last summer,” explained owner Matt Steigerwald, who dropped by our table. “I thought it would be a great way to get some high quality seafood to Iowa.” The mussels were delicious—briny and tender and dripping in escabescho sauce made of oil, vinegar, and spices.
On the advice of Steigerwald, we tried a couple of Spanish wines along with our appetizers—first a light and slightly sparkling white wine called Txakolina. “All the farmhouses in the Basque region of Spain have their own version,” says Steigerwald. “I especially like it with seafood.” We did, too, sipping it with the mussels. We also tried a Spanish Garnacha, a soft, berry-flavored red wine with hints of spice.
The Lincoln Wine Bar has an always-changing wine list. “I meet with reps every week to taste wines and talk about what we might like,” Steigerwald says. “I only serve what I’d like to drink myself.”
Every day, there are about a dozen different wines—both red and white—on the pour list, available by the glass. “Those are always available to taste, too,” Steigerwald explains. “So you can see if you like it well enough to buy a glass or a bottle.” On the night we were there, besides the dozen available by the glass, there were over 30 different red and white wines offered by the bottle, primarily from Spain, France, Italy, and the West Coast. It’s easy to try something new each visit.
Beer has also become more popular, now accounting for about half of the beverages served. Also available from an always-changing list, there are usually about 20 varieties of small-production craft beers from places like Belgium, Norway, the U.K. and the U.S.
Our wines were also perfect to go with our pizza which arrived, hot and aromatic, at our table. Like the wine list, the pizza list is constantly changing. Along with a few house favorites (mozzarella and basil, wild mushroom, sausage, and greens), daily specials are sure to surprise and delight. We tried two. The smoked mozzarella, jalapeno oil, and sage pizza arrived first. The crust crackled when we cut it, and the smoky cheese was chewy and savory, the sage adding a pungent bite.
The second pizza featured Nduja –a cured Italian salami—with duck egg and red onion. This pizza had the more traditional red sauce—made from San Marzano tomatoes, and mozzarella. We cut the pizza in wedges and dipped it into the warm and soft egg yolk. The crisp onions brought a bright flavor to the tomato sauce, and the sausage was meaty and lightly spicy.
We finished our meal with another specialty—house made pomegranate gelato. Fresh and creamy, the gelato made a satisfying end to our meal.
While we ate, the winebar filled up with guests who chatted happily while sipping wine and eating pizza. There were couples at candlelit tables, a family with young teens, and girlfriends enjoying conversation. Near the front, a microphone was being set up for live music later that evening. Everyone there knew what we’d discovered: the Lincoln Winebar is more than just a place to eat and drink; it’s a warm, friendly gathering place where great food and drink bring people together.