Bars to visit now
Wed Mar 21 2012
- Critics choice
Drink slinger and owner Jason Mendenhall (Madam Geneva) and chef-partner Robert Ceraso (Beppe) add DIY flourishes to the menu at this Alphabet City barroom, crafting proprietary bitters and jams from a pantry of seasonal ingredients. The selection includes accessible, affordable cocktails (such as the refreshing Barton Hollow, a blend of vodka, fresh lemon juice, pimentón, honey and basil; $11), tall boys of Narragansett lager ($5) and pours of San Fran Spout ($7)—a citrusy concoction of homemade cola and Fernet Branca. Solicitous staff, a young and attractive crowd, and the likelihood of a spontaneous sing-along around an upright piano all contribute to a convivial vibe that makes you want to call for another round.
- 700 E 9th St, (at Ave C), 10009
There’s plenty for uptown brew geeks to get excited about at this spacious bar, which features 25 taps offering an all-domestic lineup. The list is broken down by state, with a stable of Northeast breweries (Pretty Things, Sixpoint) complemented by a constantly rotating roster of cross-country favorites, such as Founders Centennial IPA from Michigan ($8). Adventurous drinkers, meanwhile, can take advantage of cocktails like spicy brine margaritas ($12) served in mason jars. Supplement your selection with edibles like beer mussels ($17) made with Allagash white and paired with fresh-cut fries.
- Jacob's Pickles, 509 Amsterdam Ave between 84th and 85th Sts (212-470-5566)
- Critics choice
Those who enjoy the fin de siècle decadence of the East Village wine-and-beer bar Bourgeois Pig will find welcome upgrades at its new Brooklyn offshoot—notably, a full liquor license that is put to fine use in one of the city’s most exciting new cocktail programs. Partner Frank Cisneros (Dram) has created an impressionistic drinks menu packed with smart touches, including a section that hijacks tiki and takes it on a tour of the Mediterranean. Served over ice pellets with a tuft of fresh mint, the Zombie Amaro ($14) gives the deceptively boozy classic an Italian makeover, incorporating bitter liqueurs such as Amaro Montenegro and Fernet Branca.
- 387 Court St, (between 1st and 2nd Pls)
Vin Sur Vingt
This charming West Village spot evokes the feeling of a Parisian bistro à vins—the type of humble, cafélike watering hole where you might while away an afternoon sipping beaujolais. The name is a pun referencing the phrase vingt sur vingt—“20 over 20,” or a perfect score—and the fact that the bar pours 20 reds and 20 white wines by the glass ($9 and up). The rotating list is broken down by region, repping the familiar players—Bordeaux, Côtes du Rhône—while also dipping into less exposed areas like Corsica and Jura. If you’re in the mood to experiment, opt for one of the flights of three-ounce pours (three for $18, five for $28) written on a chalkboard above the bar.
- 201 W 11th St between Seventh Ave South and Waverly Pl (212-924-4442)
As the weather warms, this casual 40-seat spot nearly doubles in capacity, thanks to its outdoor garden space. Snag a seat and sample a quirky cocktail menu, the handiwork of owner Jay Zimmerman. We liked the Love Makes You Feel Ten Feet Tall ($10), made from gin, pisco, Aperol, sweet vermouth and a bit of salt. Quell hunger pangs with small plates such as the ba’sik dog ($4), which is garnished with half-sour relish, poppy seeds and celery salt, or deviled duck eggs ($4) laced with chervil and black pepper. Should April showers spoil the party, you can cozy up at one of the indoor reclaimed-oak tables.
- 323 Graham Ave, (between Devoe St and Metropolitan Ave), 11211
The excellent wine program at this rustic Yorkville spot—filled with dark wood and jars of fresh flowers—highlights varietals from up-and-coming and newly prominent regions, including New Zealand and Argentina. Guests can choose from 15 whites, 19 reds, and a smattering of sparkling, draft and dessert wines carefully curated by partner and Babbo vet Josh Levin. Try a glass of the crisp Sir Lambert sauvignon blanc ($11) from the owner and chefs’ home country, South Africa; or stick a bit closer to home with the fruit-forward Shooting Star Blaufrankisch ($10) from Washington State. Don’t miss the menu of exotic small plates: Ostrich sliders are enhanced with apricot compote and Kaia Perinaise (mayonnaise mixed with piri-piri sauce, a hot sauce made with African bird’s-eye chilies; $7), and curry-spiced bobotie, a traditional South African baked meat dish, is topped with egg custard.
- 1614 Third Ave, (between 90th and 91st Sts), 10128
The team behind Wilfie & Nell recently debuted its newest project—this rustic, high-ceilinged gastropub. Indecisive boozers will have a lot to mull over: There are ten domestic and European draft beers, five bottled brews and ciders, more than 20 international wines (two on tap) and a tidy list of seven uncomplicated house cocktails. Among the latter, we like the easy-sipping 7th ($12), a bright, springy blend of Tito’s vodka, grapefruit and lime juices, and St. Germain elderflower liqueur. A small but hearty food menu features jarred spreads, including oxtail marmalade ($7), plus British pub favorites like fish-and-chips ($16). Do your best to grab one of the two cozy leather chairs in the miniature living room area up front; it’s an ideal vantage point to watch the world go by through one of the Wren’s enormous windows.
- 344 Bowery St, (between Bond and Great Jones Sts)
- Price band: 3/4
- Critics choice
Dave Arnold, the former culinary technology director of the French Culinary Institute, applies his wizardry to cocktails at this high-tech bar from the Momofuku crew. Although his red-hot poker—an electric rod used to heat up drinks—may not get as much use during the warmer months, there are plenty of other pyrotechnics to behold: Arnold uses a rotovap to distill liquids, and liquid nitrogen to chill glasses for quaffs like the bubbly, house-carbonated Hatchback (Campari, tequila, lime and grapefruit juice; $14). Luddites can opt for simpler concoctions, such as the Bloody Mary–esque Lady of the Night ($14), which blends reposado tequila, clarified sriracha and Worcestershire sauce, tomato water and distilled horseradish. Supplement your drinks with snacks such as the signature pork buns ($10).
- 207 Second Ave, (at 13th St (entrance on 13th St)), 10003
Oenophiles convene at this outpost of the popular San Francisco–based French bistro and wine bar, where the red decor meshes with plush, 1980s lounge chairs originally from the San Francisco Symphony Theater. The solid selection spans 80-plus bottles, with emphasis on natural and small-production vineyards. Several springy options hover in the $7-to-$16 range, including the Saint-Péray, a full-bodied white from the Rhône Valley ($12), and the Buzet, an earthy red from southwestern France ($14). Complementing the pours is a menu of Gallic bites, including oven-gratinéed escargots ($8) and a house-made foie gras torchon served with red-wine–poached pear and a port-wine reduction, pear jam and brioche ($12).
- 22 W 8th St, (between Fifth Ave and Macdougal Pl), 10011
- Price band: 1/4
Tomato soup might be the traditional accompaniment to a grilled cheese, but at this Billyburg bar, whiskey is favored; so much, in fact, that there are more than 325 varieties to choose from. Go the savory route and pair the Maefred (double-cream Brie, local mushrooms and rosemary on ciabatta; $6) with the Bowmore 15-year single-malt Scotch ($12); or nibble on the Vernice (Connecticut ricotta, Nutella and seasonal fruit preserves on sourdough; $6) while sipping a dram of spicy Elmer T. Lee bourbon ($8). On the weekend you might have to elbow through a lively crowd—and perhaps a skateboard or two—for a seat at one of the wooden booths; but once you’re settled in, the staff is available to help you navigate the extensive selection. If whiskey’s not your thing, choose from a dozen domestic beers on tap or a selection of six wines.
- 609 Grand St, (between Leonard and Lorimer Sts), 11211
Former Top Chef competitor Angelo Sosa lends his talents to this Hell’s Kitchen agave den. Grab a stool near the front floor-to-ceiling windows and try one of the tequila tasting flights ($15–$75) to compare and contrast the terroir of different regions of Mexico. You can also sip on a single variety served with a traditional sangrita (a chaser that complements the spirit’s flavor), or go for one of the tequila- or mescal-based cocktails: The Piña Oaxaca ($10) is a spicy-smoky blend of Sombra Joven mescal, fresh pineapple and lime juices, chipotle and nutmeg. Sosa’s take on Mexican small plates is worth a look as well—the braised queso fresco with ancho chilies and achiote ($11) and short rib tacos with mole and charred pico de gallo ($14) are both winners.
- 668 Tenth Ave, (at 47th St)
- Price band: 1/4
Gather your friends and claim one of the wood-topped communal tables at this laid-back bar. Herald the warm weather with European beer—a globe-trotting mix of drafts and bottles—and Old World wines available by the glass, half-bottle and bottle. Split the Bodegas Castro Martin Albariño ($36) if you’re seeking a white with minerality, or share the Château Fonréaud merlot ($40) if you fancy something smoky. Once you’re a few rounds in, you’ll want some sustenance. We’re fans of the delicate fried artichokes with garlic, herbs, lemon and aioli ($9) and creamy polenta with sausage and cipollini onions ($10). If you’re stopping by for some day drinking during brunch hours, opt for the French toast made with panettone, crispy prosciutto and cayenne pecan butter ($10).
- 613 Grand St, (between Lorimer and Leonard Sts), 11211
- Critics choice
Michael Cesari, Alexis Kahn and Noah Shannon are following up the success of Cesari’s first two joints (Earl’s, Vinyl Wine Shop) with this casual wine bar, whose moniker is short for Alcohol by Volume. If your approach to vino goes beyond red versus white, you’re in luck: The list here is also divvied up by more specific flavor profiles, such as “floral, spicy, exotic whites” and “soft, fresh, smooth reds,” so you can find one that suits your palate. Rounding out the beverage selections are low-proof cocktails made with fortified wines, and a selection of inventive nonalcoholic creations, including the lightly tart Hibiscus Lemonade Cooler ($3.50), which merges a hibiscus cordial, lemon and simple syrup. Snag a seat right next to the floor-to-ceiling front windows if you can, and bask in the ample sunlight as you nibble on fried pickles with miso mayo ($5) and other small bites from chef Corey Cova.
- 1504 Lexington Ave, (at 97th St)
- Price band: 1/4
- Critics choice
Despite its minimalist offerings—four drafts, a few wines and about eight canned beers—Earl’s keeps regulars interested with frequent turnover and fair prices (most beers go for $3 to $7; growler fills $17 to $22). Recent craft pours have included Founders Red Rye, a hoppy amber ale, though on a balmy night, you might just cool down with blue-collar classics like Schaefer. Bar owners (and childhood friends) Michael Cesari and Adam Clark gave their tiny sliver of real estate a backwoods feel, covering one wall with a hunting mural, transforming the bathroom into a woodsy outhouse and installing a tiny bar that’s as makeshift as any you’d find in a friend’s basement.
- 1259 Park Ave, (between 97th and 98th Sts), 10029