The West Village is one of New York’s more aspirational neighborhoods, brimming with cobblestone streets, zillion-dollar brownstones and glossy storefronts. Perhaps no hospitality mind better channels its starry-eyed appeal than Gabriel Stulman. The restaurateur behind the vintage-kissed stalwarts Jeffrey’s Grocery and Joseph Leonard has worked his magic touch yet again on the newly opened Fairfax. Replacing his longtime Italian darling Perla, this all-day café and wine bar breathes fresh life into the spot by joining the rising tide of casual Euro-style restaurant-bars materializing throughout the city. And the effortlessly chic West Village groupies have set up shop: Fashionable twentysomethings date and congregate in the midcentury-modern apartment layout decorated with worn leather couches, tchotchke-filled bookshelves and succulents that line the window sills. If the West Village is considered a Manhattan treasure, Stulman has struck gold.
ORDER THIS: Wine lovers will rejoice at the European list sprinkled with some atypical grape selections (romé from Spain, grüner veltliner from Austria). The most eye-catching section (yet ever present on NYC’s wine menus) is devoted to orange wine, which is similar to a white but fermented a little longer with grape seeds and skin. The glass of 2015 Castello di Lispida Terralba ($16) from Veneto, Italy, is a nice introductory orange, boasting a mineral earthiness that veers a bit sour, in a good way. If you want something with more of a bite, go for a glass of the 2012 Alvaro Castro Tinto ($19), a fruit-forward Portuguese red that tastes like a blend of cabernet and syrah with dark cherry notes and an acidic after-taste. Although there are only four cocktails available, the tart and citrusy C.R.E.A.M. ($15) is worth ditching the vintages for, with a bright and easy mix of gin, raspberry, rosé, dry vermouth and sparkling wine.
GOOD FOR: Talking shit over wine. Downtown apartments are small and the walls are thin, so bring your gossip to Fairfax instead and veg out with friends in the cozy living room setup. From 11am to 7pm, try the combo of a small dish and a glass of wine for $20. If your schedule is packed after work, then visit in the morning; the spot opens at 8am to serve Stumptown coffee and breakfast bites.
THE CLINCHER: Although Fairfax is beverage-focused, that doesn’t mean Stulman has abandoned his culinary roots. Perla’s chef, Jack Harris, mans the kitchen, issuing small Mediterranean plates like white-bean hummus ($14) and za’atar-stuffed chicken leg ($22). Order the tasty house-made spaghetti ($20) topped with sweet cherry tomatoes and savory mozzarella balls, an ode to the bar’s Italian predecessor. The care put into that simple dish shows that while the menu and style might have changed, the heart remains.
234 W 4th St
|Cross street:||at W 10th St|
|Opening hours:||Mon, Sun 8m–10pm; Tue-Thu 8am–11pm; Fri, Sat 9am–midnight|
|Price:||Average glass of wine: $15|
|Do you own this business?|