By Ivan Raconteur
WINSTED, MN For nearly a year, the staff at the Road House Coffee Shop in Winsted has been helping people start their day right with a variety of coffee, tea, and food items.
Starting Friday, Jan. 29, they will be helping people ease into the weekend, as well.
The business is starting a new feature called Road House wine nights. Every Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. patrons will be able to bring in a bottle of their favorite wine and enjoy it on the premises in a bistro-like setting.
To compliment the wine, the Road House will feature a rotating variety of appetizers.
The selection will change each week, but there will always be about four items to choose from. These might include such things as shrimp cocktails, bruschetta, pinwheel wraps, or cheese plates.
Co-owner Debra Olson said that when she goes out to eat, sometimes she does not want anything heavy, and appetizers are the perfect fit, and she hopes that others feel the same way.
She explained that she got the idea for the wine nights long before she and her daughter, co-owner Lisa Bayerl, opened their own business.
Olson said she has heard about other establishments that have similar events, both in the Twin Cities and across the country.
They say this format is especially popular in Seattle.
The Road House does not sell wine, but has acquired a “consumption and display permit.”
This will allow them to give customers the option to bring in their own wine to enjoy.
Any unfinished bottles will need to be emptied on the premises so no one leaves the business with an open bottle of wine.
The staff will also check IDs to ensure that customers are of legal drinking age.
“I had to promise (Police Chief Mike Henrich) that we would do those things,” Olson said.
There will be a small corkage fee, but the fee will be waived if customers purchase a minimum of $12 in appetizers.
The Road House will have regular menu items available as well, so anyone who wants coffee, tea, or hot chocolate will be able to purchase these items.
Olson and Bayerl said the concept behind the wine nights is not just to allow people to drink wine, but to provide a different kind of environment.
To help them facilitate this transformation, they have enlisted the help of Mandy Dammann.
Dammann has some background in design, and also has wine experience, having worked at Woodland Hills Winery last season.
The Road House staff is working on some surprises, and they say the look and feel of the place will be different on wine nights than what their coffee and lunch customers are used to.
Dammann said the wine nights will provide an alternative for those who want to go out, but are looking for “a way to avoid the whole bar scene.”
Olson said they plan to have soft background music, but the point is to offer a quiet place where people can enjoy conversation.
The staff acknowledge that the wine nights are a new concept for this area, but hope that people will be receptive to giving it a try.
For some, it might be a place to meet before going on somewhere else, and for others, it might be an oasis where they can go to get away from the kids for awhile and practice the gentle art of conversation without having to compete with a jukebox or shout over a loud band.
Bayerl said their customers have shown a lot of interest in the concept.
Olson said wine nights will be a way for people to enjoy an inexpensive evening out.
“When we go out, a lot of times they don’t have my favorite wine,” Olson explained. “And if they do, they are probably charging $40 a bottle.”
She said she might be able to purchase the same bottle herself for $12. By allowing people to bring in their own bottles, it makes it easier for customers to control what they spend.
Olson said they have been tweaking and changing things since they opened the Road House last March. The wine nights are the latest step in that process.
The Road House doesn’t just sell coffee, baked goods, and lunch items; it sells atmosphere. Olson and Bayerl said when they started the business, their goal was to have fun and create a place where people would relax and be comfortable, and this is evident in the friendly enthusiasm one finds when visiting the shop. Hearing the staff greet customers by name and engage them in good-natured banter is part of the experience.
The regular hours at the Road House are Monday to Friday 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (open until 7:30 on Wednesdays), Saturdays from 7 to 11 a.m., and Sundays 7:30 to 11 a.m.
Wine nights will run from 5 to 9 p.m. each Friday beginning Jan. 29.
The Road House is located off McLeod County Road 1 in Winsted, in the same building as Winsted Floral and Gifts, 215 6th Street. The phone number is (320) 485-2217.