MetroVino is a new restaurant on the wrap-around corner of Northwest 11th and Northrup, located in the space last occupied by D.F. The Latin colors are gone, replaced by a warmly masculine-feeling restaurant/wine bar that registers as fairly upscale, but in a down to earth, two day's growth kind of way.
The restaurant business runs deep in the veins of owner and GM Todd Steele, 33, who has worked in them since he was 14. His first job was as a handyman, and then he advanced to dishwasher, busser, and prep cook. Though he adores cooking and eating, he modestly confides that he eventually discovered that he wasn't exceptionally gifted as a chef, so he hired Gregory Denton as executive chef for MetroVino. Denton hails from Terra Restaurant in the Napa Valley and here works alongside fiancée and Chef de Cuisine Gabrielle Quiñónez.
Before he arrived in Portland, Steele spent 9 months at Nick's Italian Cafe in McMinnville, where he was manager and wine director. I've never been to the storied Nick's, but it's on my Before I Die List.
Steele's mother, Helena, is his partner in this new venture, and she designed MetroVino's interior. The booths look very inviting and the relaxed atmosphere of black leather and wood beams are straightforward and clean with a welcome dash of earthy soul.
The special Enomatic wine system, on display from the main bar, means that MetroVino staff can pour an astonishing number of unusual wines by the glass at any given time. The bottles can be kept open for thirty days—some longer—with this unique system. Your wine geek friends will feel like kids in a candy shop.
"By using machines like these, we can pour fantastic and excellent wines for under $10 a glass," says Steele. Novices and experienced wine drinkers alike will find the system a welcome change from the risky business of buying a bottle that fails to rock your world. "We can also pour tastes in different increments, so you may try two white, two reds and see how they pair with certain foods," adds Steele. "We're able to play and that's the fun of it."
In addition to opening MetroVino, the affable Steele and his wife just welcomed their second child, a son, who is three weeks old. They will no doubt endure a kind of new baby/new restaurant endurance test that brings tears to the eye. Fortunately, Steele seems to welcome the awesome challenge and has the solid background to pull it off. So be a good neighbor and bon vivante and stop in and say hello.
MetroVino's daily happy hour is from 4-6 p.m. and is a great place to sample bites. Happy Hour choices include chilled cream of asparagus soup, gratin of roman-style strip stew, and charcuterie of the day.
This Friday, June 5, Antica Terra winery will visit MetroVino's Happy Hour with tastes of their 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot.
In a word: delicious.