Branden McRill and Patrick Cappiello look like any two guys you’d find walking down the Bowery—plaid-shirted, sporting stubble and, in Cappiello’s case, serious arm ink. But despite such slacker appearances, the young guns are behind two of the most impressive wine programs in the city: first at ambitious Nolita dining room Pearl & Ash and now this neobistro sibling next door. And like its owners, Rebelle seamlessly blends East Side edge with sommelier sophistication.
ORDER THIS: Thick as a hotel-drawer bible, the French-American wine list is a staggering 1,500-bottle selection that runs the gamut from a $22 Paul Blanck riesling to a nearly $4,000 Le Pin Pomerol 1982. Helpful, handshaking bartenders are quick to guide you through the sizable tome, in between stirring oohs and aahs from the crowd every time they whip out one of the bar’s space-age Perlage pressure tombs (it keeps opened bottles of bubbly, well, bubbly). Our call for a funky, eye-opening varietal led to a glass of brass-hued Berthet-Bondet Côtes du Jura ($9), rigged with an acidic current that cuts through warm notes of cream and nuts.
GOOD FOR: Booze-seeking gastro geeks. Like at Pearl & Ash, food and wine play a symbiotic role here, with chef Daniel Eddy (formerly of seminal Parisian restaurant, Spring) turning out brainy Gallic bar bites with vin in mind (a more extensive food menu is available in the back dining room). Tuck into a deconstructed leek vinaigrette garnished with leek ash ($12) or fried, salty spheres of pig’s head ($12) at the ivory marble-slab bar, where your barstool brethren can be overheard chatting about the new noodles at nearby Ivan Ramen and getting bartender advice on the best fridge methods for storing mint leaves. (If that’s not geeky enough, portraits of food-world legends Julia Child and James Beard designate the men’s and women’s bathrooms.)
THE CLINCHER: The band tees that Cappiello routinely wears, not to mention the concert flyers that line the red-wine cellar, should tip you off that the soundtrack is superior to your garden-variety top-40 bar, an ’80s-heavy playlist with New Order, Bowie and the occasional campy Go-Gos tune on rotation. Head-nodding to the Talking Heads while swirling a syrah, one wine-flushed bargoer proclaimed, “If I lived down here, I’d come every day.” Ditto, dude.