Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I Love New York- Wine Bars

The mallification of New York continues apace, with Duane Reades, CVS (CVI?) and banks sprouting up on corners all about the city. What was once a vibrant metropolis filled with mom and pop stores which reflected their neighborhoods is rapidly becoming the Mall of America, a Las Vegas version of itself, cleaned and respectable, just as the tourists like it.

Yet, as I have posted before, there are still small pockets of originality and independance. The spirit of New York lives on, though it is now somewhat hidden and not blazing defiantly as it once did. It is to celebrate this spirit that I offer a few affordable Manhattan wine bar suggestions for the next time you get thirsty.

These aren't the cookie-cutter places that serve Sutter Home Chardonnay by the glass for $12 or pour more martinis in a night than bottles of wine. These places are proudly independent, resisting the lure of a quick turnover and offering warmth, richness and depth, something that is becoming rarer and rarer these days. These places are the real New York, where you will find real people trying to enjoy real experiences.

-Bar Veloce
Though there are now several of these about town, the East Village location was one of the first real wine bars in the city, with a unique and interesting selection of Italian wines from all over the Boot. The food is very good too (try the paninis and anything with Nutella in it, really), but it's more bar food than a restaurant experience. Just be ready to snuggle with your date and your neighbor as the original is tiny. Really, really tiny.

-Bar Solex
This French wine bar was opened by the folks who brought you Bar Veloce. Another sleek, minimalist wine bar, this one carries mainly high-quality, low-cost French wines. Again, the selection comes from all over the Hexagon (what the French call France due to its relatively hexagonal shape), and has some unique bottles that you won't find elsewhere in the city. These wines showcase the various terroirs that the country can offer. The food is mainly bar food, with some good French pizzas (yes, you read that correctly, they do personal pizzas in the South of France that rival anything in Italy).

-Pata Negra
Now we move on to Spain, which is nicely represented by this tiny, warm and inviting tapas bar in the East Village. With brick-lined walls and only a few tables, Mateo the friendly owner makes you really feel at home. That would be true, of course, if your home had a Spanish Pata Negra ham in the kitchen (and if it does, please feel free to invite me over) as this place does. If you love the pig (and I certainly do!), then this is the place for you. And it's more than likely that you'll catch me here, gorging on some Jamon Iberico and a glass of Rioja.

-Turks and Frogs
The people who run this eccentrically-named wine bar are Turkish, but focus mainly on French wines. Thus, the name. Tiny and inviting, these wine bars (there are 2 locations currently) are refuges, soothing enclaves in which to enjoy a nice glass from an interesting bottle.

-Demare Bistrot
Previously known as Bandol Wine Bar, Demare Bistrot is a warm and welcoming spot in the affordable-gastronomic wasteland known as the Upper East Side. While its neighbors charge astronomical prices for pathetic plonk and over-worked food, Demare has continued to serve well-chosen wines and well-made, solid meals at reasonable prices. Pamela, the owner, greets everyone personally, and ensures that you have a lovely experience.

All these places represent the old spirit of New York in the context of wine bars. There are countless other "wine bars" in the city, but these really offer unique experiences that the others couldn't even imagine. So the next time you're in their areas, stop in and say hello. You might just see me at the bar.

And feel free to post your own finds, I know I missed a few.

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