Obviously I did my best to experience the dining scene in New York, but I really went out of my way to experience the drinking cultures of the city. Partly because I like to drink, but mostly for research as to how other bars do things, I felt compelled to punish my liver. Here’s the run down of where I went and my thoughts, I’m not pulling punches as most of the places I went were awesome. There were a couple duds though. I’m going to list them in the order of my trip, so unfortunately some toward the end of the trip are competing with expectations set from the beginning of the trip.
Terrior E.Vil – Without a doubt my favorite wine bar in the City. Everyone behind the bar knew their stuff, and knew how to have fun while doing it! This place could easily fit in Portland, which might contribute to me liking it, but it did it with an attitude that Portlanders might find a bit off putting. It was more in your face than most places here. The wine list is, frankly, balls out crazy. There were wines I hadn’t heard of and I go out of my way to taste obscure and esoteric wines. If you are in Manhattan you need to go here. I had more tastes of more awesome wine than I can recount here. Huge credit to Jeff and Russell.
Flute – One of the three Champagne bars in Manhattan. I went to the Gramercy location, they also have a midtown location. This place wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I had been warned that the Champagne bars in New York were more nightclub/loungey than wine bar. Its true. Flute was a bit more of a lounge that looked like it was designed by a bored, middle aged housewife with too much money and an appreciation of Champagne. The staffers were cute, but not particularly knowledgeable. I had a glass of Lanson black label brut. It was served in a horrible flute, even by flute standards - hotel brunch heavy weight with a short stem, yuck! It’s a big producer that isn’t available in Portland. It was as uninspiring as the surroundings.
Proletariat – The gang at Terrior recommended this place for beer. I hadn’t intended to drink much beer during my trip, but their singing recommendation prompted me to change plans. I’m glad I did, it was awesome! The passion and knowledge the bartender had for beer makes most beer places in Portland look like the junior varsity, which is saying quite a lot. While I was there a few of the brewers of NYC came in, and the bartender, Cory, informed me I was looking at half of the NYC beer brain trust. Amazing. If this place was in Portland it would be packed to the gills. I had Del Ducato via Emilia lager, Thornbridge Kipling Pale, and Hitachino Nipponia. Super Awesome!
The Beagle – The cocktail list looked good, but I was there for Sherry. They had a great sherry list, and lucky I was there for Happy Hour when it was half price. Worth a stop if you have time. I had the “I Think” en Rama Equipo Navaros Manzanilla and the “Solear en Rama” Barbadillo Manzanilla. Both delicious.
Booker and Dax at Momofuku Ssäm – I didn’t think I’d actually get to go here but my new friend said it was right around the corner from the Beagle, and we popped over. It was a cool bar, with some awesome cocktails. I had the Gin and Juice which was a playful sparkling take on the “classic”. Then I had the lechuga which is gin, lemon, and bibb lettuce. Hell yeah! That was delicious, and “healthy”!
Corkbuzz – This is the big deal, newish wine bar in New York, run by one of my fellow F&W Sommelier of the Year recipients. The list was impressive, and I wish I could have had more of the by the glass wines, but I was there with a friend and to hang out with one of the somms, so we went to the bottle list. We did make a brief stop at Val de Mer Rosé from the glass list, which is made by a young gun of Chablis with the help of Moutard in Champagne. Cool little wine. After 10pm at Corkbuzz is Champagne Campaign, so all Champagne bottles are half off. Worth going for that alone. We had a bottle of Marguet Rosé 2007 from Ambonnay, pretty delicious juice. I’m hoping someone brings this producer to town soon. Beyond the wine, the space felt like it needs more time to settle into itself. It felt a touch sterile, and I think more people having more fun over time will help this place develop a personality as a space rather than just letting the wine do all the work.
Angel Share – I didn’t even know about this place but my friend took me there after Corkbuzz for a cocktail. It’s a hidden bar, but it didn’t feel gimmicky. For the life of me I couldn’t tell you what I drank. Good conversation does that, plus I had quite a bit to drink by that point. I do remember it was tasty and well thought out. If you have extra time its worth seeking it out behind the Japanese restaurant.
Terrior Tribeca – I had some time to burn before going to Bubble Lounge, and this Terrior was right there. I got there right when it opened so it was quiet. The staff were nice enough, but not particularly engaging. If I hadn’t had the E.Vil experience to bolster my view of Terrior I would have thought this place was fine, with a great list but blah other wise. Actually the space itself was pretty cool, good bones.
Bubble Lounge – Ugh. I really don’t even want to write about this place. It was a depressing place that showed a lot of wear and tear. I was there when it first opened so it was hard to get a read on the clientele, but the staff was battle worn and could have given a shit less if I was there. Their list was uninspired with a lot of big house plonk. I had a glass of Alain Thienot Brut, it was fine. The bathroom really sealed the deal – it reeked of bleach and had mirrors on 4 walls, it practically begged you to do drugs and have sex in there. Given the industrial amount of bleach, I’m guessing people do that regularly all night every night. Barf.
Pearl and Ash – I ate and drank here, but saved it for the drinks section because I thought it was really more about the wine. It was recently written up in the NYT and the reviewer talked about how people tend to buy bottles and share. When I saw the list I understood why, the glasses were good and priced fairly by New York standards, but the bottle list was stupidly cheap! I had a good discussion about the perlage preservation system with the somm/owner, Patrick. He’s super fun and knowledgeable. I would definitely be happy to go have a drink with him. I ended up ordering the Gaubicher & Chaussard You are so Bubbly from the Loire for $37! Tons of fun, ended up sharing with my bar mates and getting some Foillard Morgon in return. Great time eating and drinking fun wine. Highly recommended. The food is not a second thought except in this write up, the octopus, skate, and “peas and carrots” were all awesome! After Terrior E.Vil this was my favorite wine place in the city.
Amor y Amargo – this is tiny bar dedicated to cocktails made with bitters. It’s a ballsy concept and the drinks were good. I ran into an old friend behind the bar, so she just poured me a couple fun drinks. I liked it but didn’t completely understand the hype behind it.
Death & Co – I’ve heard about this place, but again didn’t expect to go. It just happened to be next door Amor y Amargo, so of course I had to go! It was without a doubt cool inside. I was impressed, sexy and dark, totally lived up to its name. I just let the ladies behind the bar pour me whatever they thought was best which ended up being a Guns and Rose and Devil Inside. I remember liking them but I was toasty by this point. I’d go back for sure. I’m glad they took such care of me because if I hadn’t be a buzzed, I would have been in a lot of pain on my walk home with the impressive blisters I had by that point.
Bluebird Coffee – skipped breakfast the next day, just had coffee on the way to Le Bernadin. Best coffee I found in the city. These guys care and make good espresso.
Bar Boulud/Boulud Sud – I tried to go to Bar Boulud but they were closed between lunch and dinner. Lame. I went next door to Boulud Sud. Such a difference being in Midtown vs LES. Everything was a bit more accessible and friendly for a older, wealthier crowd. A bit tame for my taste. Alfred Gratien Rosé was pleasant though.
Ten Bells – Lots of people recommended this place to me, and frankly I didn’t quite get it. The service was bad, the wine list was only on a chalk board that was hard to read, and the wine glasses were total crap. They might as well have just used juice glasses, it probably would have been better. They wines were good, not amazing. Just naturally made. I could see how people could have a really memorable night here if the server likes you and steers you well, but my experience was lacking. Go to Terrior E.vil. At least my drinking buddy was fun to hang out with, I can’t imagine going here alone.
Terrior E.vil – After dinner at Hearth, I went back because Jeff from Sunday night saw me at Hearth and made me promise to come back. It was just as awesome as the first time, plus this time I got to meet Kim who also is a certified ass kicker. Go here!
Pouring Ribbons – My final bar in NYC, and it was a gem. Both the guys behind the bar were great, one of whom was an owner who had been lured away from Death & Co. They’re drinks were great. I had a Mutiny Suppressor which as delicious and then the Sprezzatura Royale, which along with the lechuga from Booker and Dax were the two most memorable cocktails I had. This one was made with lambrusco and amaro and was awesome! The bar itself still felt like it was settling into itself and developing its personality. I have no doubt that this place will develop a personality. In the meantime just go and have some kick ass drinks.
There you go, my liver abuse in full detail(not counting all the wine at lunch and dinner).