Cravings Wine Bar & Grille Embraces New Chapter

by | Apr 2024

Peach Braised Short Rib

Peach Braised Short Rib. Photos: Chris Emeott

Cravings Wine Bar & Grille welcomes change in the face of challenges.

Nameer Ameen credits his parents for teaching him one of life’s most important values: Being of service to others. He’s used this value as the backbone of his life and of his business, Cravings Wine Bar & Grille.

At 20 years old, Ameen immigrated to the United States from Pakistan to study at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he received a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management and a master’s of science degree in training and development. Ameen then began his career at Darden Restaurants, where he quickly rose to a senior leader. “I was hungry, and I delivered results,” Ameen says.

Nameer Ameen, Cravings Wine Bar & Grille owner

Nameer Ameen, Cravings Wine Bar & Grille owner

In 2014, when the company was undergoing corporate changes, Ameen made the decision to pursue his own dreams. His initial idea included a restuarant in the Woodbury area that served traditional Pakistani food. “I wanted a nice, fast-casual concept,” he says. “I worked really hard on it for a year, but I couldn’t get it off the ground … I struggled with that.”

After Ameen’s original idea of creating a Pakistani restaurant didn’t take off, he discovered Cravings Wine Bar & Grille—a Woodbury mainstay that had been open since 2008. In November 2016, Ameen purchased the already-established restaurant, and he, alongside his family, dove into the business.

Ameen’s three children, Shahan, Haaris and Armaan, all worked side-by-side with their father in the business. “It gave me an opportunity to spend time with them,” Ameen says. Just a few years later, in September 2019, Ameen and his family suffered a loss when his middle child, Haaris, passed away at the age of 18. “I never experienced something of that magnitude,” Ameen says. “I had realized that the community and my guests that knew me were extremely supportive. They all stepped up to comfort me, [and] the community comforted me. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose that you can go through a massive tragedy in life, and the community that you serve can be a beacon of hope.”

When COVID-19 emerged just a few months later, Ameen felt that the restaurant was bound to close down due to the style of business. “The kind of concept I have isn’t well perceived as ‘to-go’ … It is a fine dining [establishment] where people enjoy a glass of wine, different courses,” he says. Although challenging, Ameen again credits the overwhelming support of the community for keeping Cravings afloat. “Here we have another turning point and a renewed sense of how the community loves [Cravings], and how the community stands behind it,” Ameen says.

Alfredo Pasta

Alfredo Pasta

In 2023, road construction shut down many of the roads near the restaurant, making it difficult for customers to access. Around the same time, Ameen heard from locals that the restaurant needed to revamp its offerings and menu options. “Only those who give you feedback deeply care about you,” he says. Ameen took that feedback to his executive chef, Randy Vogel, and implemented a “youngsters” menu, introduced mocktails with the assistance of his bar staff and decreased menu prices across the board.

Mocktails: Cucumber Lime Smash and Woodbury Breeze

Mocktails: Cucumber Lime Smash and Woodbury Breeze

“I personally think if you’re not listening to your customers, you can’t survive, no matter how good you think you are at the end of the day,” Ameen says.

Cravings is still home to freshly prepared, contemporary American cuisine, featuring locally sourced seafood, meat, small plates, salads, pasta and burgers. And now, the new youngsters’ menu includes typical picks, like cheeseburgers, chicken fingers or cheese pizza, plus pappardelle pasta and mac and cheese. Mocktail selections include a Cucumber Lime Splash (muddled cucumber and fresh lime with sweet ’n’ sour soda) and the Woodbury Breeze (cranberry and orange juice, topped with ginger beer).

Executive chef Randy Vogel

Executive chef Randy Vogel

Ameen notes that customers can expect to see more affordable options across the menu without changing the portion sizes or quality of ingredients. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘Can we do this?,’ and the answer is yes. We can do it,” Ameen says. “It’s something I felt we [needed] to do.”

With a freshened-up menu and renewed sense of purpose, Ameen is excited and hopeful to welcome customers into the new Cravings. He says, “When people come and see me, it’s never treated as a transaction. It’s treated as you’re in my home, and I’m here to serve you.”

Cravings Wine Bar & Grille
755 Bielenberg Drive Suite 108; 651.528.6828
Facebook: Cravings Wine Bar & Grille
Instagram: @cravingswinebar
X: @cravingswinebar


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