Happy Hour Scene: Absolve Wine Lounge

The Place: Absolve Wine Lounge 920 Studemont St. 281-501-1788 www.absolvewinelounge.com

The Hours: Seven days a week 4-7 p.m.; all day Wednesday.

The Deals: Selected wines -- the bar carries about 150 labels -- start at $7 a glass and get cheaper. Domestic beers are $2, sangria is $4, and the bar takes $3 off all food plates.

The Scene: Collin Grimes, a commercial real estate agent, was standing at the bar at Absolve Wine Lounge, talking about why he loves the place. Grimes wore a gray suit with no tie, and his hair was spiked high enough to make the boys from Jersey Shore proud. His date sat at a table behind him.

"It's helluva lot more romantic than Cova," Grimes told us. "It's sexy and it's cheap. A great late-night place."

Then he slapped us on our back and moved on.

Absolve opened about four months ago, and it's built in the type of retail strip center -- just off Studemont and Washington Avenue -- that makes it tough to spot if you're not looking for it. In fact, according to bartender Andy Tippen, some of the early regulars didn't want Absolve to put up a sign outside because they didn't want the place to be discovered by the masses.

"We don't have a target demographic," Tippen said. "I like to tell people it's just a neighborhood bar."

And for whatever reason, the place has become for some people an anti-wine bar wine bar, or at least a preferred alternative to other places nearby along Washington Avenue.

"There's Cova: too loud. There's Max's: too loud, I get distracted. And there was the Corkscrew, but that's gone," said Jennifer Brown, who added that when she first saw Absolve she thought it was a "happy ending place," considering its retail strip location and fluorescent sign.

Absolve isn't huge, but it feels roomy, and whatever kind of seating you're looking for -- couches, chairs, tables, a simple spot at the bar -- you'll find it here.

Brown was at Absolve with a friend for a couple after-work glasses of wine. There were several other couples, like Grimes, who were at Absolve on dates. One guy sat at the end of the bar wearing a North Face T-shirt.

"When people talk about wine, a lot of times there's a pretentiousness about it," said Tippen, who describes himself as "a beer and bourbon guy." "It doesn't have to be that way."

The Conclusion: A cool spot to grab a glass of wine. You won't feel like an ass if you don't know squat about grapes, and, more importantly, the place is never too loud.

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