Lincoln Wine Bar’s new owner makes some changes, keeps cafe’s original spirit

The Lincoln Wine Bar will keep serving its Neapolitan-style pizzas, while growing its craft beer offerings. — image courtesy of Jesse Sauerbrei

If you’ve visited Lincoln Wine Bar in Mt. Vernon over the past month, you may have noticed some changes. The bar and restaurant, which specializes in craft beers, wines and pizzas, changed hands on Sept. 1 when Matt Steigerwald, the owner for eight years, sold the restaurant to long-time employee Jesse Sauerbrei.

Before taking over the restaurant, Sauerbrei had been working in wine and beer distribution. Lincoln Wine Bar was one of his accounts, and at one point Steigerwald asked him if he could pick up a shift now and again. From there, Sauerbrei says, it “snowballed” into what he is doing today.

Visitors can expect some immediate changes from the new ownership. Sauerbrei expanded the hours to now include lunch from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., which will feature a sandwich and salad every day. The dinner menu has also seen some growth, with the addition of salads and other snacks. In addition, bar patrons can expect a to see a greater emphasis placed on craft beers.

Some aesthetic changes to the interior and food prep areas could also be on the way in the next few months. However, Sauerbrei stresses that the atmosphere, food and beverages will largely remain the same. He doesn’t want the feel of the place to change at all.

“You walk in and it’s very inviting … it’s very warm,” said Sauerbrei.

On the menu, the Neapolitan-style pizzas won’t be changing. These are homemade and baked in the restaurant’s Stefano Ferrara wood-burning oven, custom made in Italy specifically for the Lincoln Wine Bar.

“[Ferrara is] a third generation oven builder from Naples,” said Sauerbrei. “He makes the best ovens for what we do.”

The 6,000 pound oven bears the inscription “Il cibo e importante,” Italian for the restaurant’s inherited motto: “Food is important.”

Long-time fans of the Lincoln Wine Bar may remember its origins as an offshoot of the Lincoln Café, an Eastern Iowa culinary destination for 13 years. After the closing of the Lincoln Café, Steigerwald focused on operating the Lincoln Winebar before stepping down to lead the culinary efforts at the Cedar Rapids New Pioneer Coop, set to open in 2015.

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