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Food & Drink

Milly’s Wine Bar & Bistro Is *So* Close to Opening

Coming soon to the Mill District: charcuterie boards, books, and wines from around the world.


Check out that transformation!

On a sunny afternoon in early May, Brandon Witzel stands in front of a wall of wine corks, with boxes more of them scattered around his feet. Witzel's been painstakingly affixing the mountain of cork—literal truck loads of the things, all donated—to make a mural over the last several weeks.

"I was gonna time-lapse it, but I was like... oh my god, it's taking forever," laughs the owner of the soon-to-open Milly's Wine Bar & Bistro.

This is how the project of rehabbing 1129 Washington Ave. S. has gone. Witzel is the founder of the design firm Quinn Design, and one of his favorite things about that work is respectfully restoring old buildings like this one. "The whole goal is buying older buildings and kind of bringing them back to their former glory," he told us back in September.

A wall of wine corks in progress, full about 1/4 of the way up
The cork wall in progress | Milly'sMilly's

The work is meticulous and thoughtful, especially with buildings like this one, built in early 1900s. And it's time-consuming even without the additional projects that pop up as new ideas surface. For example, Witzel wanted the lounge-y upstairs space at Milly's to be accessible to everyone, so changes to the space included adding an elevator. No stone unturned; no cork un-glued.

After years of this kind of careful planning and fixing and renovating, Milly's is finally just about ready to open. The wine bar hosted its first tastings over the weekend, and Witzel says you can expect soft openings this June.

The downstairs at Milly's will have bar-top seating and an open kitchen, with a few tables by the wide windows. Upstairs is the more moody parlor-like space, with a fireplace and cozy couches. Both floors will be lit by a shower of globular glass lights, which cascade down from the ceiling.

"I want it to feel like you're just surrounded by champagne bubbles," Witzel grins. "You're sitting in a glass of champagne."

The two vibes at Milly's: downstairs (left) is "Parisian cafe blue" and shows off exposed timber ceilings, upstairs (right) is more "moody French lounge," with lamps, a fireplace, and lots of books and plants | Milly's

For all the turmoil of opening a bar and bistro, little else about Milly's has changed from the initial vision: neighborhood-y vibe, lots of snacky cheeses and meats, plant life everywhere, shelves with books you can borrow from. (Witzel's already begun unloading boxes of books he's towed over from his overflowing garage.)

The wine list will be more global than local, and they're working with companies in other cities to bring in meats and cheeses you don't commonly encounter in the Twin Cities. Really, the whole thing is kind of uncommon in the Twin Cities—just last week, the folks at the new Dutch Bar bemoaned the lack of wine bars here in town.

And the plan is to have a patio, too—maybe even an upstairs deck overlooking the city one of these days.

Instagram is the best place to find updates for now; the website will follow before the June opening events. Until then, take a look at some more photos from the incredible down-to-studs transformation below, all courtesy of the team at Milly's:

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