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The Little Club is a welcoming wine bar in a beer town

The growing Hertel district is defined by its diversity. Dive bars sidle alongside craft beer pubs; ethnic restaurants neighbor on both sides. The Little Club fits in neatly between.

A wine bar in a beer town, The Little Club makes a concerted effort to abandon pretense. It does so quite successfully. The decor is equal parts modern and urbane - the bar’s metallic curves and global lights slide easily into the dining room’s muralled black and white photographs. Softly, an eclectic mix of music plays, with tracks blending bands like The Specials beautifully with a chronology of hip-hop.

The cast of characters at The Little Club is equally unique. The bar is lined with seemingly lifelong friends who the bartender knows by name. Still, they will invite you to have a seat and share a drink.

A refreshing atmosphere in the company of new friends is great, but what really gives Little Club its flavor is the wine selection. The menu is all over the map - literally - with fantastic selections from Western Europe, the Mediterranean, Australia and the Pacific Northwest.  

Melanie Glover, right looks on as the bartender pours a glass of wine at The Little Club. From left are Natalie Maranto and Lauren McDaniel. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Wines are both bottled, and "on tap" (“not your nonna’s boxed wine,” the menu quips). These three expertly chosen wines are distributed to the bar by the keg and drawn from a tap, much in the same manner a beer would be. The tap wines, which are currently a riesling, syrah and rioja, are fantastic representations of their styles, offered at a lower price than by the bottle.

There are six sparkling selections, with some available by the glass or carafe; others only by the bottle. These vary from refreshing lambruscos to a chardonnay/pinot blend that sounds very interesting. 

The largest selection of wines by the glass is covered by the "white, pink and orange" section of the menu. There is a very reasonable Muscadet for only $8 a glass, which would pair wonderfully with either of the white tuna entreès. There is also a nice xerel-lo ($13 a glass), which has some great citrus and ginger flavors. Half-glass pours are available for several of these wines at about half of the price.

The reds are a list of standards as well as eclectic varietals - a South African shiraz and an Australian pinot noir sit alongside French blends and Californian cabernets. The Spanish mencìa ($13 a glass) was fuller than expected. The mondeuse ($10 a glass) added a warm spice to its tart cherry flavor. A handful of these fine reds are also available for half-pours.

There is a solid section of sweet and fortified wines - a fine option over a rich dessert. Those who prefer beer or spirits also have a place at The Little Club. Currently, two New York State breweries (Community Beer Works and Common Roots) join Belgium’s Duval on tap. Top-shelf liquors can be served in straight, or in hand-crafted cocktails. Sprecher sodas are also available in bottles.

Bartender Caitlin Graham polishes the wine glasses at The Little Club. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

A small kitchen shares space with the bar. The well-thought-out menu features rich charcuterie and cheeses along light seafood and salads. Each dish matches a wine selection. Finger foods start at $5, and small plates can run to $14. Platters are available that allow for up to five choices of meats and cheese and include savory extras.

The Little Club is a wonderful stop for a double date, an intimate evening, or just a night to yourself with a good book and a nice glass of wine. Small groups would be comfortable at the corner of the bar, or along one of the three islands that separate the bar from the small dining area.

The front windows at The Little Club offer an open view of Hertel Avenue. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The Little Club
1197 Hertel Ave. (427-6400, thelittleclub.bar)

Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Atmosphere: Warm, friendly, and quiet enough for conversation.

Specials: The Little Club has Wines of the Month highlighting a certain style or region. The first Tuesday of the month, select glasses of wine from that list are discounted. April's menu will feature wines of the Jura region of France.

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