There’s no question South 1st Street has undergone something of a metamorphous over the past couple of years. Despite a wave of new restaurants opening up and down the street, it seemed – at least for a long time – the Oltorf area was immune to the changes happening around it. That’s not to say the neighborhood was hurting for amazing places to dine with a list of options ranging from upscale spots like Sway and Lenoir to highly addictive Tex-Mex eats like Polvos and El Primo.

However, for those looking for something in the middle – that easy post-work spot to grab a good glass of wine or appetizer – the options were previously few and far between. Thanks to its reasonable prices, strong menu offerings, and relaxed atmosphere, Winebelly is now helping to fill that void while adding a little charm to Oltorf in the process.

Winebelly’s Spanish tapas-inspired food menu consists of a dozen or so small plates with price points ranging from $5-$16. We started with the cured white anchovies topped with a Spanish salsa verde. The bright flavor of the delicate, salty anchovies and herbaceous, tangy salsa made for a delicious welcome to Winebelly. Next up was an order of another traditional tapas favorite, tomato bread. The bread was soaked in a mixture of sweet tomatoes, garlic and olive oil and offset by the crunchy crust. Once again, this dish highlighted what can happen with well-executed simplicity.

Cured White Anchovies - $5

Cured White Anchovies – $5

Less successful were the pork, beef and veal meatballs, served in a nondescript tomato sauce; they were perfectly tender and juicy, but a bit underseasoned. Though always a crowd-pleaser of a dish, they are not necessarily something I’d order on my next go around. Instead I recommend venturing further down the menu towards braised short ribs or duck confit papperdelle.

Tomato Bread - $6

Tomato Bread – $6

Wines by the glass consist of a handful of fairly standard varietals with price points ranging from $6-$14. My recommendation is to stick with the diverse wine by the bottle menu, which includes a wide range of options from a number of different regions. I also greatly appreciate that Winebelly offers at least five options in every price point, starting at an affordable $24 and up. There is also a wine cocktail menu, but personally, I prefer my grape juice served straight up.

Despite her busy section, our server was eager to offer us wine tastes and recommendations right off the bat. Orders throughout the evening moved quickly, but we never felt rushed – a balance that’s not always easy to obtain in a spot like Winebelly. Solid pours on the wine too, though I wouldn’t have minded if it was served a tad closer to cellar temperature (I know, I know, but it’s a wine bar after all!).

Pork, beef and veal meatballs - $10

Pork, beef and veal meatballs – $10

The cool, dark interior is small and narrow yet there is a sense of openness thanks to the expansive, floor to ceiling bar anchoring the room’s center and plenty of natural light pouring through the front and back windows. That being said, the small interior doesn’t offer too much wiggle room for big groups. Truth be told, that’s probably a good thing since the food portions put the small in small plates, not that one really wants to share anyways.

Having lived only a hop, skip and a jump away from Winebelly not so long ago, I can safely say that the wine bar is most certainly a welcome addition to the area. In fact, Winebelly is a neighborhood wine bar worth leaving your neck of the woods to try.

Winebelly, 519 West Oltorf, Austin, TX 78704. Open daily starting at 4PM.

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