Where to drink this week: Tuffet
A wine bar done the Williamsburg way.
Mon Mar 7 2011
Photograph: Jolie Ruben
Is Williamsburg growing up? As a drinking destination, the 'hood is best known for its pervasive brand of regressive boozing, typified by picklebacks and rounds of Big Buck Hunter. But a recent crop of neighborhood drinkeries are training their focus on more refined pleasures: raw oysters (Maison Premiere), top-shelf whiskey (Post Office) and European soccer (Banter). Perhaps the most charming of the bunch is Tuffet, a handsome white-walled tavern that bills itself as a "cheese-and-meat bar." Earnest self-branding aside, it's a smart revision of the tired wine-bar formula, satisfying Billyburg's fundamental needs (beer, coffee, Wi-Fi) while offering a welcome alternative to the PBR-and-Tater-Tots take on food-and-drink pairings that has colonized the surrounding area.
DRINK THIS: A tight menu spans the booze spectrum without feeling thin. Choose from cocktail standards (martinis, Manhattans; $9--$12), six craft-beer drafts ($5--$6) that you can sample before ordering, and a selection of mostly small-batch European wines ($7--$10). Our apron-clad bartender was a convincing jack-of-all-trades, mixing a satisfyingly bitter Negroni before giving a bit of curds education (a cinnamon-rubbed Roth Kase Sole Gran Queso from Wisconsin was a bovine twist on Spanish Manchego, traditionally made with sheep's milk), and shaving off some salty tufts of American prosciutto with the meat slicer behind the bar. If you're tasting a range of charcuterie and cheeses, ask for help finding a good pairing—a bright, berry-tinged Domaine Dupeuble beaujolais was a fine match for our pick-and-mix platter ($9--$30 for two to eight items).
GOOD FOR: A calming retreat from novelty tippling. Vintage sconces, flickering candles and soul standards on the speakers set a date-friendly mood, but Tuffet also lures patrons in love with their laptops. A homey back room, equipped with a communal wooden table, doubles as a free-for-all office space for Billyburg's freelancing legions. If you arrive in the afternoon, you can start with Gimme! Coffee and move onto something stronger as the workday progresses.
THE CLINCHER: While the cheese categories, written on a huge chalkboard above the bar, can be intimidating for novices ("bloomy rinds"?), user-friendly black slate serving boards—each etched with numbers corresponding to items on the menu—make it easy to navigate your order. The boards are also piled with extra goodies, like rich fig jam, tangy red-onion jelly and slices of raisin-and-fennel toast from Amy's Bread. 286 Graham Ave between Grand and Powers Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-7434)