I’ll never forget the first time I wandered into Washburn Imports in Ivanhoe Village and discovered that the exotic furniture importer had converted part of its showroom into a hip beer and wine bar.
Hanging out in Balinese lounge chairs was cool (you can buy them, by the way) but once I got over the initial thrill of the bar’s unique setting, I really began to appreciate Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden for so much more—it’s really a great little place to catch up over drinks.
You’re not going to find any liquor here, but the 40+ craft beers ($5-$10) and 45 wines ($7-$15) to choose from more than make up for its absence. There’s no table service, so everyone wanders up to the bar for their libations, which is actually great because it gives the bartenders a chance to make some really educated recommendations. Expect a few well-known choices on the beer/wine menu, but Imperial also prides itself on curating some of the lesser known but equally as palatable options as well. This place is an unpretentious spot to discover some of those.
A smallish menu of cheese and charcuterie plates makes for a handy go-to if you’re looking for a snack, but to offer something more substantial, Imperial hosts a rotating collection of local food trucks Monday through Saturday evenings.
Another perk is Imperial’s petite outdoor patio, an intimate little spot ideal for couples if a group hasn't taken it over first. Occasionally there is live music, but mostly the background tunes are played over the sound system.
I’d recommend Imperial for a ‘just a drink’ date or dinner and drinks (thanks to the foods trucks). I think the drink choices and food options paired with this atypical setting make for an interesting place to connect.
By the way: Imperial opened a second location in Sanford last year, and I'm told it's just as great.
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