By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published May 06, 2022 at 11:01 AM

The Strange Town Bottle Shop officially opened to the public this week at the 3rd Street Market Hall, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Step into the space and you’ll find a gorgeous bar and shelving made from butternut and sycamore wood designed and built by local carpenter Christopher Brooks and a hand-painted sign by local artist Eleanor Ahlberg of EJArt Co.

But you’ll also find a growing selection of fantastic natural wines that run the gamut from sparkling and rosé to red, white, orange and co-ferments (a combination of red and white wine blended together).

Delicious natty wine

Some of the wines are selections available at Strange Town, 2101 E. Prospect Ave., the East Side restaurant which has built a solid reputation for its globally-inspired, plant-based shareable plates, low ABV cocktails and cozy, convivial vibe. But you’ll also find new selections that you may or may not have come across anywhere else.

Even better, you don’t have to know a thing about wine to navigate the shop, thanks to friendly, knowledgeable staff that welcome the opportunity to introduce you to something you’ll love.

Owner Mia Le Tendre says that the shop will typically have between nine and 12 bottles of wine available to enjoy by the glass (with pricing in the $10 to $15 range). In addition, any bottle can be purchased for consumption on premise or to take and enjoy at home. Most bottles in the shop hover in the $20 to $50

Guests are also encouraged to ask for a taste of any of the open bottles at the wine bar, or stop by for free tastings every Monday.

In fact, tasting, exploration and curiosity are the name of the game. Le Tendre says the bottle shop was created explicitly to provide a casual, non-judgemental wine experience that highlights the swiftly growing world of natty wines.

“Our selection concentrates on small producers, family farms and women-owned vineyards who produce wines that are not only amazing to drink, but sustainable at the same time,” she says. 

“I can introduce you to weird wines… some that are really cloudy with unique flavor profiles. But I can also direct you to wines that are really, really classic, but which have been raised with a respect for the land and with practices that not only make great wine, but support our earth.”

Passionate, not snooty

Le Tendre says her motivation for opening the shop was to create a space that was accessible to everyone, a place where she and her staff could share their passion and knowledge while hipping customers to something amazing.

“One reason I love natural wine is because I want to support sustainability and small farms. But I also love the fact that these vineyards are doing away with some of the pretension of wine culture. They are made to be enjoyed fresh, not cellared for years.” 

In fact, Le Tendre says she welcomes the opportunity to talk with curious customers, whether they’re trying wine for the first time or simply looking for something new and interesting to try.

“Just like craft brewing, the wine world has become so broad,” she says. “And there are so many stories to tell. We want to share our passion and knowledge without pretense. I think the wave of the future is about casting away all of our old thoughts and impressions of wine and really embracing a new way of looking at things."

She says that, while the bottle shop is starting out small, she plans to expand the selection of wines as time moves forward, as well as adding a curated selection of beer, cider, sake and other beverages. 

More at the food hall

The Strange Town Bottle Shop joins a growing slate of tenants at the new Downtown food hall, which includes Dairyland (burgers, chicken sandwiches, frozen custard), Mid-Way Bakery (bakery, desserts, soups, salads, sandwiches), Amano Pan (breads, pizza), Hot Dish Pantry (pierogi, hot dish), Strega (appetizers, pastas, desserts) MaKE Waves (smoothies, juices, acai bowls), Greenhouse (salad, sandwiches), Middle East Side (Middle Eastern wraps and sides) and Dawg City (hot dogs, sausages).

And there are still numerous vendors on the way, including Anytime Arepas (Venezuelan arepas and desserts),Supernova Coffee & Doughnuts (doughnuts, coffee), Paper Plane Pizza (pizza) and Kompali Tacos & Tortas.

3rd Street Market Hall is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.