Here’s a confession: one of the reasons I stay in New York City, this ridiculously expensive, overcrowded, nightmare of a city, is for the wine. Simply put, there is no other city in this country where so many professionals have dedicated themselves to the art of serving excellent wine. You can have your pick: funky, natural wine; classic, expensive Burgundy; eclectic Eastern European varietals; bubbly from all corners of the earth. It is a great thing to be able to go out and spend no more than $60 on a truly unique, delicious, inspiring bottle of wine, shared in good company alongside a spread of wonderful food. And there are just too many places to choose from.
Which is why I’ve curated a list of essential spots for imbibing wine, around New York City. I tried to choose places that are not necessarily my personal favorites, but rather a balanced representation of all that the city has to offer. Don’t miss these restaurants and wine bars, whether you live here or are just passing through, and when you go make sure to show up thirsty. Oh, and come hungry, too, because wine truly sings alongside excellent food.
Pearl and Ash
With a revamped menu from talented chef Trae Basore, this casual, chic Bowery restaurant from wine director Patrick Cappiello has never been better. It was at Pearl and Ash, a few years ago, that I had an important experience: the sommelier helped us choose a Loire Valley Chenin Blanc (from Francois Pinon) that broke my heart into pieces with its acidity and minerality—and it cost all of $60. This is a place you can get a stunning bottle of wine that won’t break the bank. Of course, you can drink $3000 bottles of Romanée-Conti, if you wish. The helpful, eloquent somms here will make sure you get a bottle you’re happy with—and no one wants to upsell you, they just want you to drink well. Don’t miss the food: beautiful plates of seasonal vegetables, and contemporary approaches to French dishes like sweetbreads, as well as fresh fish, and a sumptuous brisket.
Long Island Market
An ideal wine bar will have more than just a “house red” special at happy hour: it has a stellar wine list, a relaxed and casual atmosphere, and food that’s easily sharable and just as good as a serious restaurant. Long Island Market in Queens is killing it on all counts. You’ll find changing menus of natural wine and seasonal, creative dishes, as well as a really good cheese plate. Prices are great; it’s increasingly rare to find an excellent $10 by-the-glass option as you have here. The friendly and hip vibe is ideal for hanging out with friends, or having a wine-fueled date that could lead into dinner and another bottle.
Aldo Sohm Bar
Would you like to swirl your wine in the very finest Zalto glassware? This is the spot to do it, because Master Sommelier Aldo Sohm (yes, that’s his real last name) is an ambassador for this high-end glassware, and it is a perfect fit for the upscale, uptown vibes at his wine bar. Expect an inviting atmosphere to taste through the 40 by-the-glass options, and over 200 bottles. You can find humble, low-priced wines, like an Italian Fiano for $50, but you would also do well to explore the incredible Champagne selection, or one of the delightful Austrian white wines (Sohm is originally from Austria).
Compagnie de Vins Surnaturels
Each time I return to this SoHo wine bar, I feel more and more at home. It resembles a living room, with a completely relaxed and friendly vibe, and comfortable furniture as well as a superb bar right by the kitchen. Compagnie serves an amazing selection of by-the-glass wines, and has a Bible-sized list of bottles that they can help you pick through. But there’s also a fun game here: each night, there are “blind” wines, one white and one red, that you can puzzle over and try to guess. If you get it right, you win the bottle! Compagnie also has regular happy hours and events. The charcuterie, cheese, and steak tartare here are so on point, as is just about everything. Completely fool-proof first date spot (or second, or third, or umpteenth).
Everybody is talking about how cool Taavo Somer’s new French-inspired restaurant is, on the Lower East Side—and, sure, the servers wear jumpers straight out of Bonobos catalogue. But there is more than seeing-and-being-seen here: the vegetable-focused, sharable food at Le Turtle is perfect for enjoying with one of the wines on the concise list. Expect a good selection of organic, biodynamic, natural wines, and an array of bottles from Beaujolais and Burgundy, in France. The mark-ups are quite favorable; when I went, a bottle of 2011 white Burgundy from Simon Bize was only $66, and it was electric. You’ll drink simply and elegantly here.
The main attraction at Roberta’s is no longer really the pizza. Sure, the Italian food is great, but people flock to this Bushwick restaurant, a few blocks off the L train, to appreciate the ever-changing list of small-production, natural wines curated by wine director Amanda Smeltz. She has become well known in the New York City wine world, and for good reason: it’s only in recent years that a tattooed, spunky, nose-pierced young woman is operating one of the best wine programs in town. The Roberta’s staff is constantly educating themselves about the producers on their list, so you can count on your server being able to find you a great bottle in your price range.
A whole lot of Burgundy drinking is going down at this Upper East Side restaurant, and that’s how restaurateur Eli Zabar likes it. Zabar is a true bon vivant, and he has over the years amassed a meticulous selection of wines from Burgundy in particular, as well as Barolo. Don’t know much about those wine regions? Perfectly fine—the wine staff at Eli’s, led by wine director Randall Restiano, knows how to find you the right bottle, plus they use Coravin technology to offer some astounding and unusual wines by-the-glass, at reasonable prices. Have a long, wine-soaked dinner with eclectic Old World gastronomic influences, and let yourself be transported from the streets of New York to the vineyards of France. Definitely approved for bringing your in-laws.
Untitled at the Whitney
Can you think of anything better than a leisurely lunch, in a naturally lit dining room overlooking a city street scene, following a stimulating visit to the American art collection at The Whitney? Sure—it would be better with wine. That’s easy to do at the restaurant Untitled, inside the new location for The Whitney, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district. Chef Michael Anthony, formerly of Gramercy Tavern, has crafted a menu of composed dishes featuring seasonal vegetables, fresh fish, braised meats, and other New American style eats. Wines, like the food, change according to the season, but you can count on wine director Eduardo Porto Carreiro’s selection of by-the-glass options at reasonable prices, and an extensive bottle list featuring extensive French offerings, particularly Champagne.
High Street on Hudson
You know those places that are beloved by critics and regular people? This is one of them. High Street on Hudson, in the West Village, is one of New York City’s most inviting and creative new restaurants. So much love and care goes into the in-house baked breads and fermented vegetable salads, along with an assortment of sharable plates with a seasonal overtone. Beverage director Kirk Sutherland has crafted an all-domestic drink program that reflects the best, the most exciting, and the most delicious of what America has to offer (in liquid form, at least). The emphasis is on small, independent producers working naturally, and often with unique blends or varietals (ever had the Italian grape Valdigué, made in California? here you can).
By: Rachel Signer, VinePair