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THE HELIX EXPERIENCE: Savvy New Café and Wine Bar Opens in Altoona

Tuesday, January 3, 2023
Sawyer Hoff, photos by Andrea Paulseth | VolumeOne

new hotspot offers light grub and craft drinks in style

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. The Helix Wine Bar and Comet's Café recently opened in front of Cowboy Jack's in Altoona.

A helix is not only the shape of a corkscrew, but it's also the shape of our DNA, which makes up each of us. The new owners of Helix Wine Bar want the space to be just as much a part of the community as well.

Kristin Waldow decided to open Helix with her long-time friends and wine enthusiasts, Scott Westphal and Lisa Ornstein. Ground was broken on the new space 19 months ago but the two couples picked out the lot back in November 2017. While the original plan was to break ground in the spring of 2020 and to open the following 2021, COVID-19 forced the project to a halt.

"Normally when you go to a bar or restaurant it's distributer driven; it's whatever they want to sell and get a discount on," Westphal said. "So the wines we offer are those you have to really dig for. And that's what we really did here."

Helix Wine Bar carries a wide variety of wines from all over the world as well as beer, craft cocktails, and small plate items such as charcuterie boards and a variety of light bites. Comet's Café - housed in the same space - is open 7am-2pm daily, serving craft coffee drinks with Peet's coffee, bagels, pastries, and soups.

"We want this place to be something for everyone," Waldow said. "So we offer craft beer, cocktails, and an experienced bar manager that can make an array of cocktails."

Comet's Café

Inspired by the name of their late family dog, Comet's Café was another way to use the space before Helix starts serving in the evening. In the summer, patrons will be able to enjoy treats from Comet's Corner, the walk-up utility window available for those that are just stopping by outside. Patrons can also look forward to relaxing with drinks and good grub on the patio or the rooftop deck that overlooks the amphitheater. 

Their wine-tasting room will host virtual and in-person wine tastings with winemakers from across the world. There is also a temperature-controlled wine cellar with some of their more valuable wine. Near the door, patrons can purchase many books about wine and other drinks too.

"We're kind of geeky about wine, cocktails, beer - that's why we have a book section," Ornstein said. "That starts the journey. A lot of people will walk right past them, but if a person wants to learn a little bit about why they like what they like or they want to learn more about wines to expand their palette, we want to give them that opportunity to do that."

Wine-tasting room

To learn more about Helix Wine Bar and Comet's Café, you can go to or visit them in person at 1444 Front Porch Place, Altoona.

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