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The Riddler, acclaimed SF Champagne bar, heads to NYC in October

Bao Ong

Forget about caviar served on precious little blinis and sipping your sparkling wine out of flutes. 

Enter Jen Pelka’s The Riddler, which has been turning any pretense surrounding wine, specifically Champagne, on its head since opening in San Francisco two years ago. The beloved bar is now planning to open on October 8th in the West Village—and given all the anticipation and hype, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’ll be one of the best wine bars in NYC. 

This Champagne bar features Chambongs (yes, a bong with Champagne, which you can only have two of), tater tot waffles and even iced buckets of Miller High Life, whose tagline refers to the beer company as the “Champagne of beers.”  

Pelka, who founded The Riddler and is also a publicist, has created a chill atmosphere at one of the best wine bars in San Francisco (national publications have also raved about the bar). If you’ve been, you know it feels indulgent yet playful. There are napkins announcing “Champagne is always the answer” or tables with placards that jokingly say “Reserved for Beyoncé.” 

Photograph: Kassie Borreson

Nikole Morsink is running the kitchen here. She’s been the chef de cuisine at MoMA’s various cafes and also cooked at The Modern, The NoMad and Eleven Madison Park. Morsink will also be introducing The Riddler’s first burger; you’ll still be able to order the popular tater tot waffles and popcorn to help soak up all the bubbles, served in wine glasses instead of flutes because it’s how oenophiles enjoy their Champagne.

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Beyond the wine menu and light hearted touches, The Riddler sets itself apart with an entire female roster of investors. Ruth Reichl (the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet and former restaurant critic for The New York Times), Kerry Diamond (who started indie journal hit Cherry Bomb) and Shan Lyn-Ma (Zola founder and CEO) are just a few of the names behind this neighbhorhood bar. A female presence is clear from the ownership to the design; both locations of The Riddler have a large photo of Jacqueline Bisset, who starred in the 1967 James Bond spoof “Casino Royale,” with a bottle of bubbles in one hand and sipping a glass in the other. 

The feminine touches here also reminds us of Ariel Arce’s Air’s Champagne Parlor, as well as the fun and more casual wine bar ethos of places like La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. ROY, a San Francisco design studio led by women, has also brought the wooden back-bar and cafe-style tables to New York. Richard Lewis, who designed Bar Pisellino and the revived Pastis, was the architect of this corner space. On the raw bar and banquettes, you’ll also find Pelka’s antique Champagne buckets dotting the room—perfect for chilling a bottle. 

51 Bank St.

Photograph: Kassie Borreson

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