Where to eat and drink well in NYC right now With so many former cooks and sommeliers, the W&S crew isn’t easy to impress when it comes to dining out. But we do have our go-to places where drinks are taken as seriously as the food. Some are long-time favorites; others are brand-new discoveries. All count as must-visits in 2017.
This neighborhood bar, from Brooklyn restaurateur Andrew Tarlow, excels in simple pleasures. John Connolly’s wine list favors the rustic and the versatile, shining a light on unheralded French wines, from Aveyron to Vin de France, most well under $100. Chef Lee Desrosiers’ menu, which changes daily, re-imagines the possibilities of bar food—the offal, off-cuts and tartares are consistently outstanding. Just outside the door lies a daunting view of towering Midtown, and you may decide to never leave Brooklyn.
This is NYC’s best post-theater option for great wine and a quick bite, thanks to sommelier Aldo Sohm’s ever-changing, far-ranging by-the glass selections and the Austrian accented charcuterie tower.
Among the many food courts that have popped up across the city in the last few years, Urban Space Vanderbilt is our favorite. It’s easy to get to, within sprinting distance of Grand Central Terminal, and it brings together an all-star list of food purveyors, including Brooklyn favorites like Roberta’s Pizza and Red Hook Lobster Pound. The best reason to stop in, however, is Amali Mou, the diminutive version of Amali 20 blocks north. Not only are the gyros the best this side of Athens, with meat from Cascun Farms in upstate NY, but there’s a full wine list, which sommelier Frankie Mace has packed with serious pours from around the world. Grab a glass of sparkling xinomavro or split of Ramnista Naoussa at lunch, or colonize one of the picnic tables with a group of friends and order off the bottle list.
April 2017 Update: Amali Mou ups the upscale food-court game with a drinks list that runs from Aperol Spritz to bottles of Canary Islands malvasia and Portuguese touriga. Order a gyro while you’re at it— the best this side of Athens.
In a 28th Street space that’s minimalist cool, chef Junghyun Park (formerly of Jungsik) is plating up some of New York’s finest Korean fare. He excels at the four-ingredient dish, turning something as simple as leeks in doenjang into a silken, sweet-salty fugue. The plates aren’t large, nor are they bite-sized and precious. Budget $36 for three of them, then search out a bottle on Ellia Park’s wine list—a concise collection of zesty grüner veltliners and mineral-laden Burgundies punctuated by new Loire and Jura favorites.
Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon commemorate a piece of 1920’s NYC history at BlackTail. Their Battery Park bar transports you back to Prohibition, when planes adorned with black tail-fins—full of thirsty Americans en route to Cuba—flew directly over Pier A Harbor House. What were those hooligans drinking in Havana? Mojitos and daiquiris, sure, but McGarry and Muldoon have riffed on the Old Havana scene with cocktails like the Nitty Gritty: a highball of Amontillado Sherry, Caribbean rum, banana, Curaçao and mint syrup topped with Champagne
Amanda Smeltz wasn’t the most obvious choice to take over a wine program in a Midtown Manhattan restaurant. Before she came to Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud, across from Lincoln Center, Smeltz was in the hinterlands of Brooklyn, fueling the raucous, exploratory scene at Roberta’s with Hungarian furmints and skin-contact Georgian wines. But it’s a brilliant move on Daniel Boulud’s part to keep his places as relevant now as they were when they opened. While Smeltz has retained the signature Big Bottle specials and core focus on French wines in both places, she’s brought with her a new generation of winemakers to freshen things up. If you like Allemand Cornas, she might pour you something from Domaine de la Grande Colline, made by his former mentee Hirotake Ooka. And while there’s still plenty of Burgundy, you might want to check out the elegant pinot from Botanica in South Africa, or Swick Le Sous Bois, a no-sulfur-added pinot from the Columbia Gorge. Her picks tend toward the low-intervention, saline and edgy, bringing an energy to the table that seems to make the rich food even easier to digest.
Michelle Biscieglia’s wine list is as carefully considered as chef Dan Barber’s food—unfussy, sustainably farmed and delicious. Bonus points for the helpful organization by style, and the array of NYS wines.
The room is cramped and festive, right down to the tessellations in the tile floor. Anything a la plancha is still as delicious as it was when the place opened in 2004. And the wine list, while limited to Spain, is seemingly unlimited within Spain. Check out the Rioja selection, with verticals of CVNE, La Rioja Alta and López de Heredia stretching back to the 1940s. And if it’s Sherry you’re seeking, they’ve got you covered.
The first foray into the New York dining scene for Enrique Olvera, the celebrated chef of Mexico City’s Michelin-starred Pujol, Cosme immediately announces itself as a haven for traditional Mexican flavors. Although the bare concrete floor, sleek lines and soaring ceilings might exude a slightly impersonal air, the rich scents of roasting chiles and garlic fill the space with warmth. Another kind of warmth awaits at the bar, in the form of an encyclopedic range of artisanal mezcal and Tequila, including such gems as the estate-grown Fuenteseca 9-year-old Tequila. Yana Volfson—who also consults for Russ & Daughters Cafe, compiled a wine list on par with the bar offerings. The selections from Spain represent a particular strength; for instance, imagine drinking a crisp yet fleshy godello (such as the 2012 A Coroa 200 Cestos from Valdeorras) alongside a scallop aguachile with poached jicama and fresh wasabi, cucumber and lime, or an earthy 2002 Viña Tondonia Reserva Rioja from López de Heredia to cut through a fatty plate of duck carnitas with salsa verde.
To cap off this bounty, there’s Charlie Bird, where Robert Bohr, sommelier to the rich and famous, is a partner. The list is comfortable, with a secret list somewhere if you ask (usually in the sommelier’s head). As you’d expect from Bohr, who often wears a pin that says “I Love Sulfur,” the selection leans towards the classics with an occasional accident Skál like Elisabetta Foradori’s Nosiola. ($80). Want a half bottle? Sure. All wines, great and small, are served up in beautiful Zalto glasses.
April 2017 Update: The cool kids come for the hip-hop playlist and a wine selection that allows for drinking well without spending a lot of money. And Masters of the Universe come for the other end of the list: Robert Bohr and his team of young-buck sommeliers have mined their wineworld connections for older bottles of Bandol, Burgundy and Barolo now in their prime. All of them go with the hearty fare on Ryan Hardy’s menu, sourced from farmers and fishermen within reach of Manhattan. —Joshua Greene
When Tom Colicchio opened Craft in 2001, he moved one block south from Gramercy Tavern, the quintessential NYC dining room and barroom he’d created with Danny Meyer. Craft was his personal launching pad as a star chef and its concept and design made a splash in pre–9/11 New York, as much for the stark presentations of perfectly braised short ribs and pint-sized copper roasting pans filled with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, as for the wine list, which Matthew MacCartney, a fellow Gramercy Tavern alum, built into an eclectic powerhouse. Today, the room feels comfortably dated, somewhere between modernist simplicity and post-modern tech-boom glitz. The tables are vast squares of NYC real estate, the low murmur in the room allowing for conversation with your friend across the expanse of wood. The quality, range and simplicity of the food translate the avid carnivore’s experience in her favorite steakhouse to the language of the omnivore, or pescatarian, or vegetarian (you could happily dine here on vegetables alone). Patrick Bennett’s wine list is equally catholic and deeply satisfying, especially in Champagne and Burgundy, where you can find extraordinary wines (with a number at remarkable prices). Where else can you start with a pinot noir from Champagne, the Bouzy Rouge from Benoît Lahaye, before choosing from a range of Vosne-Romanée lieu-dits from Louis Michel Liger-Belair? And then itch to go back for the other hidden gems from Austria, Germany, Canada, Jura, Portugal, side pockets of Bordeaux satellites, outskirts in the Rhône and untrammeled California amidst their well-branded cousins. There’s plenty here for the super-rich of the contemporary tech boom, and somehow as many choices for those of us who continue to struggle with the complexities of the real world. We can all use a drink about now. This just happens to be a great place to find it.
Caleb Ganzer, a W&S Best New Sommelier 2016, has turned this dark NoLita space into a sommelier hangout, thanks in particular to the extensive Champagne list, where rare bottles regularly turn up at a fraction of the usual price. Wine geeks delight in the Jura selection while collectors marvel at the Burgundy prices. Drop in on select Monday nights for Ganzer’s Wine Mixtape Series, when he lets other wine-world stars take over the bar with their own playlists
Grand on all accounts, from the opulent space, Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali’s evocative food and Jeff Porter’s list of hidden gems and classic bottles, Del Posto is a sweeping survey of all the best Italy has to offer—and adds an exceptionally deep assortment of Champagne.
April 2017 Update: Grand on all accounts, from the opulent space to Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali’s evocative food and the extensive list of Italy’s hidden gems and classic bottles, Del Posto is a sweeping survey of the best Italy has to offer.
Sherry, it turns out, is now big in the City, big enough to encourage Alex Raij and her husband Eder Montero, to take over EQP’s next-door space and insert a dining room. The restaurant, hidden behind the kitchen, still feels as intimate as someone’s living room, with wacky seventies-era lamps and mismatched chairs. Warm up with a glass of amontillado and EQP’s famous sea urchin sandwich, alongside some crunchy, pimentòn-spiked chickpeas and torreznos (a.k.a. “bag of bacon”). Then settle in for the evening with more substantial dishes. Raij and Montero dig deep into Spanish cuisine for some of its most fascinating dishes (their Brooklyn restaurant, La Vara, specializes in Judeo-Spanish cuisine). Here you can get xató, an orchestral combination of shredded raw salt cod tossed with bitter chicory and rich romesco redolent of the Catalan coast; or a salad of wheat berries, butternut squash and black-eyed peas studded with tender chunks of octopus and dressed in tahini—a takeo on a Menorcan recipe, Raij says. Her wine list, a tight selection built with sommelier Jason Arias, highlights the country’s lesser-explored areas, with white Priorat and red Rías Baixas and other acidic, oceanic delights.
April 2017 Update: Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s uni panino, as tiny as it may be, is one of the great sandwiches of New York. There may be no better accompaniment to a glass of Fino, and there may be no better place to drink Sherry on this side of the Atlantic.
Open two and a half years now, Brooklyn’s Four Horsemen has become an institution. Partner Justin Chearno changes the list weekly, interspersing funky selections with Clape verticals and orange wines. Come on weekends for the set lunch, a bargain at $28 for four courses, served family style. By night, the lights go dim and the music comes up—which doesn’t disappoint with LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy on board.
Few wine lists have remained as influential as the one beverage director Bill Fitch pioneered nearly a decade ago at Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill House; its seamless blend of offbeat naturalism and Old-World classicism helped to define an entire generation of Brooklyn beverage programs. While many of the fringe producers he first championed have since become staples across the borough, one thing hasn’t changed: Fitch’s restless sense of discovery. This eagerness to explore new frontiers is on full display at Faun, the Italian-inspired, gratuity-free, ambitious addition to the Prospect Heights restaurant scene. At approximately 50 bottles, it’s a smaller list for Fitch. Taking inspiration from the restaurant’s namesake—the goat-human hybrid of ancient mythology—the program highlights Europe’s untamed, less-traveled viticultural regions. “As a concept, the faun is part of the Greco-Roman idea of the forested ‘other-world,’ or hinterlands,” he explains. “It’s about a kind of wild spirit, a rusticity,” discovered in the ancient places where wine was born. This translates to a fascinating cross-section of obscure offerings from Greece and Italy—such as the fizzy, skin-fermented Domaine Glinavos Paleokerisio from Ioannina or Lazio producer Andrea Occhipinti’s floral Rosso Arcaico—as well as Eastern Europe (i.e., Richard Stávek’s Vesely, a juicy red Moravian field blend)
Freek’s Mill put Gowanus on the wine map with Alex Alan’s hyperfocused list. It’s Loire chenin, cru Beaujolais and Georgian wines all the time here, and they happen to match amazingly well with everything that leaves the wood-fired oven, from roasted oysters to barbecued kohlrabi and dry-aged duck. And, while you could spend a couple hundred dollars on an aged bottle of Nicolas Joly’s Coulée de Serrant, most everything else comes in well under $100.
Walk into the atrium of the 1883 Temple Court Building, gaze up at the maze of cast-iron railings topped off by a glass pyramid, and you have arrived: The Beekman Hotel and home to Fowler & Wells, Tom Colicchio’s newest restaurant. It’s dramatic yet charming old-school New York, from the jewel-toned stained-glass panels on the walls, to the plush banquettes lining the room. Beverage Director Jarred Roth has made it affordable to drink well in such sumptuous surroundings. A bottle of Eva Fricke’s single-vineyard Seligmacher Riesling or a glass of Phrenological Kabinett Cider from Good Life Cider Co. are tuned to chef Bryan Hunt’s dishes: Order the sweetbreads, creamy and mild with bacon and nutty Brussels sprouts, or rabbit schnitzel perched atop buttery pistachios, roasted citrus and garlic confit.
Slip into the bar, bright with daylight and cozy in its cushioned seats, where Gabriel Kreuther’s hearty Alsace food feels right at home. Order a classic tarte flambée with smoked bacon and crème fraîche, or the house-made sausage with tangy sauerkraut. Explore offal via the silky liverwurst, or a bowl of burgundy-hued lentils dotted with melting bits of tripe. These dishes make great fodder for exploring the funky, light-footed gamays from the Côte Roannaise and Alsace rieslings and gewurztraminers sommelier Emilie Perrier has compiled, not to mention her Champagne list. Sure, you can have a business meeting in the dining room. But to steal away in the bar one afternoon with a glass of 2008 Trimbach Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre Gewurztraminer and a sausage is to take a mini holiday.
There’s something soul satisfying about dinner at Gramercy Tavern that you don’t get from most of the ambitious tasting menus around the city. Chef Michael Anthony’s elegant farm-to-table cuisine continues to astonish 12 years on, highlighted by Chris Raftery’s wine list, encompassing the eclectic and the best from the Finger Lakes to the Mosel, Chablis to Piedmont and Sonoma’s far coast.
If you crave a bowl of broth on a winter’s night, there’s no warmer or more welcoming place to go than Hearth. And if that broth is made from seaweed, with shiitake and hijiki, ask Christine Wright for a glass of Manzanilla—the Maruja, from Bodegas Juan Piñero: it’s a brilliant and refreshing umami rush. You can get lost for hours in Wright’s list, which reads like a childhood dream of walking from one room to another in some vast, dimly lit home that might be related to your own, finding something you prized that you had lost before leaving it again to walk on to the next. So stop yourself and order the Sylvain Pataille Aligoté, a white wine in the same rich mood as your dream, and it will comfort you with anything you happen to order off the menu, whether the spatchcocked chicken for two or the whole-grain rigatoni with pork ragù.
Umbrian-born Roberto Paris started at Il Buco in 1997, helping Donna Lennard turn her NoHo antiques store-cum-café into a full-fledged restaurant. His wine list became as much a draw as the food, which launched chefs like Jody Williams and Ignacio Mattis to culinary fame. That restaurant is still very much worth a detour, but for everyday dining, head a couple doors down to Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. To step inside is to be transported to a small bar in Italy, where the neighborhood congregates for coffee at 8am and comes back for a glass of wine at lunch. The list showcases lesser-known Italians by the glass, like passerina del Fruisinate from Lazio or top-notch Müller-Thurgau, while the bottle list draws attention for its back vintages and boldly personal flavor. Collections from Lebanon’s Musar and Rioja’s López de Heredia mingle among the Italians, as does Argentina’s Bodegas Chacra, run by Tuscan vintner Piero Incisa della Rocchetta. Together with house baker Sheena Otto’s bread, it’s reason enough to become a regular.
At Indian Accent, from New Dehli star-chef Manish Mehtrotra, the excitement isn’t only the innovative food: It’s also Daniel Beedle’s wine list. Beedle emphasizes aroma and texture above all, key characteristics with Mehtrotra’s complex dishes. Riesling leads the way, from Germany and Austria to Slovakia, followed up by an impressive selection of chenin blanc, grüner veltliner and sauvignon blanc, not to mention trousseau gris, Hunter semillon and Corsican vermentino. You might opt for the wine pairing with the tasting menu, or choose a bottle like Movia’s 2009 Veliko Bianco to experience how one versatile wine can match a range of intense flavors.
This Flatiron newcomer provides succulent pasta and easy bites. Chef Jared Sippel comes from Frasca, the western outpost of Friulian cuisine in the United States. So does Erica O’Neal, who handles the wines, stacking the list with Italian whites, along with wines from contiguous countries (don’t miss the Kozlovic Malvasia from Croatia’s Istrian peninsula). The rumbling amaro cart O’Neal shepherds through the dining room will end the evening with a beautiful flourish. Pro tip: The frico paired with friulano is a must.
River Café alums Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer are turning out rustic, whimsical dishes that Annie Shi matches with her smart two-sided wine list of French and Italian bottles. The ultra-thin Sardinian flatbread with rosemary and whipped baccalà surrounded by green-tinged olive oil may sway you towards vermentino or another coastal white, like pigato or vitovska; all of the selections make friends easily. The deep flavors in a rabbit-and-white-bean dish or quail with lentils could bring you to Southern France or Corsican reds—both of which are well represented.
You’ll find one of the best Italian wine lists in NYC in this unassuming Flatiron trattoria. Brad Bonnewell has archived his collection in two volumes of tiny type, which include ample vertical arrays of rare Barolos, ancient and modern Tuscans and a host of California cabernets. Order a pie—chewy and wood-oven blistered in the Neapolitan style—and ask for the list. They have magnifying glasses if you need one
The first thing you’ll notice as you enter LaRina Pastificio & Vino is the wall of artisanal vermouth and amaro behind the bar. “Some are so regional I didn’t even know they existed when I was in Italy,” explains Emilia-Romagna native Giulia Pelliccioni, who helms the eclectic, Italo-centric natural wine list at this upscale take on the casual pasta spot. While the encyclopedic range of bitter liqueurs forms the basis for an inventive cocktail program, Pelliccioni’s obsession with the category is best understood by ordering them on the rocks (splash of soda optional): the bright citrusy Montanaro Bianco, for example, or the richer, Sherry-like Silvio Carta Vermouth di Sardegna. Either will sufficiently whet the appetite for a heaping plate of lemon gigli pasta smothered in duck ragù. At which point, you’ll probably start craving a perfumed glass of Cala Cala Rosso from Etna’s Calabretta estate or one of Denis Montanar’s textured Friulian whites. Just don’t skip a splash of amaro with your post-dessert espresso.
With Eric Ripert in the kitchen and Aldo Sohm on the floor, Le Bernardin may well be the finest fish restaurant of any port on the planet. It’s not just Sohm’s list—some 900 labels deep, rich in carefully cellared classics as well as unexpected bargains; it’s also his friendly, gracious tableside manner
Absinthe reigns in this Belle Epoque–style bar. Twenty-five brands are available, in a classic drip or mixed into a cocktail. Order a dozen oysters from the 30-some varieties offered daily or dive into La Grande Plateau, with crab, scallops and lobster, and don’t skimp on the bread and seaweed butter.
Sean Josephs had been a restaurant wine buyer when he teamed up with Michael Tsoumpas, an American whiskey collector, to open Char No. 4 in 2008. The restaurant brought bacon, Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey together in Cobble Hill, well north of the Smoky Mountains or the Ohio River port town of Maysville, believed to be the site of the first Kentucky distillery. Now Maysville, along with the distillations of more than 170 American masters working in wheat, rye, corn and blended American whiskeys, has settled into Manhattan. Located on a block in the upper Flatiron district of wholesale trinkets and sari shops, the restaurant joins NoMad and the Ace Hotel’s Breslin in transforming this neighborhood into a culinary mecca. Josephs hired Kyle Knall, late of Gramercy Tavern, to riff on smoke in food, and not just to satisfy the whiskey buffs at the bar. Knall’s food is subtle and complex enough to warrant an investment in one of the bottles off Josephs’ extensive wine list. Consider the subtleties of smoke in a Raveneau Chablis Valmur 1998, a Leflaive Bâtard 1999 or Drouhin’s Montrachet Marquis de la Guiche from 1993. These Burgundies have a place with Knall’s slow-roasted arctic char over cabbage, parsnips and mussels. The smoked trout is made for riesling, especially one of the J.J. Prüms, von Schuberts or Dönnhoffs from the 1980s and 1990s. If you stop in for lunch, try the grilled fish sandwich with Pépière’s Muscadet, or kale salad with duck confit alongside Sunier Fleurie. It’s the sort of menu and wine list that will keep you coming back for more, especially if you like to start your evening with a one-ounce taste of Lincoln Henderson’s Angel’s Envy or a small-batch Bourbon from Hirsch.
April 2017: A southern watering hole just north of the Flatiron Building, Maysville may be best known for its extensive American whiskey collection, but the wine list is one of the city’s unsung gems. Sean Josephs—who now divides his time between New York and New Orleans, where he and his wife, Mani Dawes, run Kenton’s—floats a highly personal wine list packed with well-aged Burgundy for the whole smoked trout, and Rhône and Barolo picks at excellent prices. —Tara Q. Thomas
With 3,000 bottles that span the globe, it’s easy to get lost in the wine list at The Modern. Better to let Michael Engelmann and his able sommelier team navigate, so you can spend your time gazing out at MoMA’s sculpture garden, or focusing on chef Abram Bissel’s elegant, opulent cuisine. The wine list goes deep in classics and back vintages, especially in France and Germany. Or, they can steer you toward something less expected, like a Yarra Valley nebbiolo from Luke Lambert or chenin blanc from Testalonga in Swartland.
Now entering its third decade, Molyvos was doing the Greek thing long before Santorini became an alternative to Sancerre. The food is impeccable, unfussy and true to the flavors you’d find in the home of a loving Greek chef; the wine list is unparalleled, with more than 700 bottles of exclusively Greek wine, many of which Kamal Kouiri has personally wheedled out of producers, or aged carefully in his cellars so that they are showing their best.
Chef John Fraser, of Dovetail on the Upper West Side, has taken his locavore cooking downtown to Narcissa, anchoring the Standard East Village hotel. While this isn’t a vegetarian restaurant by any means, the vegetable-driven dishes shine, radiating a brightness reflected in the open kitchen, blond wood furniture and airy interior. Take the carrot Wellington, a flaky crust wrapped around a hearty filling of carrots and sunchokes; or beets cooked rotisserie-style, their garnet hue set off by horseradish-spiked yogurt. To drink, Ashley Santoro continues the mission she began at Casa Mono to encourage more Sherry drinking, with an entire page of offerings (don’t miss the salt-baked oysters with a glass of Innocente Fino). There’s also a deep list of domestic selections focused on American tastemakers such as Arnot-Roberts, Hirsch, Clos Saron and Sandhi, with back vintages of icons like Corison and Qupé, and a wealth of well-priced grower Champagnes and classic Burgundies.
April 2016: Can a salad actually be exciting? It can here, and so can the vegetables, which chef John Fraser treats with a respect more frequently accorded to meat. (See Carrots Wellington, above.) It gets even better when you dig into Ashley Santoro’s wine list, rich in Sherry and even richer in micro-production Champagne.
April 2017: At this NoHo restaurant, chef John Fraser takes vegetables and positions them center stage. (Cue the rotisserie-crisped beets and carrots Wellington.) Wine director Ashley Santoro has cultivated a wine list as fresh as the food, shining a spotlight on Sherry and microproduction sparklers like Combe Pétillant-Naturel Trousseau and Agrapart Champagne Blanc de Blancs. —Deanna Gonnella
Modern Hawaiian is the name of the game at Noreetuh. Taking its name from the Korean word for playground, this place may tempt you to slide down the riesling rabbit hole. Jin Ahn has broken up his selections by levels of sweetness and not only has a page dedicated to Dönnhoff, but to their most famous site, Niederhauser Hermannshöhle. Château Musar also gets a spotlight, with a page of mini verticals. You can drink well for under $100, even bottles with some age. A. et P. de Villaine Bouzeron 1998 and Caves São João Poço do Lobo Arinto 1995: either is available for $65—I’ll take both, and an order of spam agnolotti.
Late night, Racines can be sommelier central, as the industry gathers to plunder owner Arnaud Tronche’s wine list. With an assist from partner David Lillie, of Chambers Street Wines down the next block, he’s stocked a geek’s dream cellar, full of small-production Champagne, Jura whites and Burgundy back vintages, plus a savvy selection of bottles from France’s south. Tronche’s home country may get the most extensive coverage, but the list welcomes low-intervention wines from around the world, at terrific prices.
Everyone talks about the pizza here, but let’s talk about the wine list: Amanda Smeltz takes the provenance of her wines as seriously as the chefs do the food (which is significant: They grow much of the produce themselves, and provide a home base for Heritage Radio Network to broadcast shows about farmers and food.) The list is a paean to the undersung, funky and fringe, full of orange wines, Austrian obscurities, Hungarian varieties and alternative Italians. Start with the Strohmeier Schilcher—a cloudy, pale sparkling red from Western Styria that’s built for charcuterie—and work from there.
April 2017: Lowlife alum Hugh Crickmore took over the wine program at this Brooklyn icon last year, maintaining a focus on small, artisan producers, with bottles like Enfer d’Arvier from Danilo Thomain or Il Censo’s savory Praruar. Between the pizza and the wine, Roberta’s remains worth braving the crowds on the L train and at the door.
Pascaline Lepeltier came to New York from France to open Rouge Tomate, a vast paean to healthy dining on 60th Street, just east of Fifth Avenue. During the six years of the restaurant’s life, Lepeltier became a Master Sommelier, and her relationship with healthy dining took on a more radical cast. When the rent went skyward, Lepeltier and Emmanual Verstraeten decided to build a new Rouge Tomate from scratch, converting two old red-brick carriage houses in Chelsea into a chic and cozy den of deliciously responsible food and wine. The aesthetic of chef Andy Bennett’s dishes is as earthy as the barn-wood walls, with the same careful attention to perfect joinery, especially when it comes to their tight fit with the grounded flavors and textures of naturally fermented chenin blanc, Lepeltier’s passion. In the new space, it’s the list that’s vast, focused on organic and biodynamic wine, including bottles from the Finger Lakes (Bloomer Creek and Emerald Road Farm) as well as Jauma and Lucci in South Australia, with all of Europe in between. She’s also priced the wines to move: You can drink a bottle of Cacique Maravilla’s País Pipeño from Chile’s Itata Valley for $32, or a bottle of Dauvissat 2005 Chablis for $105. Go soon and go often, or you might be tempted to order too many bottles at once.
April 2017: In an old red-brick carriage house in Chelsea, Master Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier and chef Andy Bennett have created a chic and cozy den of deliciously responsible food and wine. The aesthetic of the dishes is as earthy as the barn-wood walls, with the same careful attention to perfect joinery, especially when it comes to their tight fit with the grounded flavors and textures of naturally fermented chenin blanc, Lepeltier’s passion. She’s built a vast list, focused on organic and biodynamic wine, including bottles from friends in the Finger Lakes (Bloomer Creek and Emerald Road Farm) as well as Jauma and Lucci in South Australia, with all of Europe in between—everything priced to move. Go soon and go often, or you might be tempted to order too many bottles at once.
Since 1996, this has been the Midtown choice for anyone interested in sake and the izakaya fare to go with it. Go for the seasonal sake specials—if you can find the place, through the anonymous entrance to an office building and down the stairs.
St. Anselm is the democratic response to the New York steakhouse aristocracy. Owner Joe Carroll’s wine list is remarkably broad and approachable, with values from around the world. To complement the kitchen’s massive grill, which touches nearly every dish on the menu, drink earthy and bold—perhaps a smoky mourvedre from La Clarine Farm or a textured skin-contact ribolla gialla from Kabaj. Grab a beer (or two) next door at the restaurant’s sister bar, Spuyten Duyvil, until your table is ready. The signature steak—a $24 hangar cut—is worth the wait.
Chef Seki’s pristine, boundary-pushing sushi works brilliantly with the unexpected pairings by Yasuyuki Suzuki, Rick Zouad and Koichi Ishiguro—a Japanese beer from a sake brewery, a Hatzidakis Santorini, a long soju cocktail or a crisp, clear sake. Recently, the team opened seven seats at the bar for a $55 omakase dinner in 45 minutes. If you have more time, head to the Kappa Room for Osaka-style comfort food, or upstairs for a tatami room and plunder the list for Mikulski Burgundies, Prager rieslings and Huet Vouvrays.
At The Simone, an Upper East Side hideaway that exudes the warmth of a chic French country inn, Tina Vaughn knows every dish intimately—an advantage that comes from marriage to the chef, Chip Smith. That advantage plays into the wine list, an eclectic mix of drink-ready bottles that ranges all over Europe, with many selections from importer Neal Rosenthal, who helped the couple find their partner in the restaurant, Robert Margolis. Don’t miss chef Smith’s daily terrines, his savory tart or his epic duck with morels, the breast pan roasted, the thigh slow roasted.
You might know Paul Grieco for his Summers of Riesling, but if you head to Terroir, the 100 wines he’s got open behind the bar may take you on a deep dive into Madeira or Sherry, or little-known producers in Piedmont, Burgundy or Bordeaux. Anywhere you can find an unfrequented wine path, Grieco is on it.
But perhaps the strongest evidence that NYC has embraced Spanish cuisine in all its variety is at Toro, a sprawling space in an area more known for nightclubs than places you go to actually eat. Get past the bankers and the models and check out the menu: Sea urchin (erizo) appears in crudo form, sprinkled with pickled mustard seeds, lemon gelée and sea salt; there’s more erizo in a bocadillo and in suquet de mariscos, blended with lobster and parsnip in a creamy sauce. Txiperones a la plancha are as tiny as the tip of a pinkie, charred on the grill, served with a fried farm egg and toasty croutons; setas are served with the yolk of a farm egg to stir in yourself. All of these would be terrific with the Champagnes on the extensive wine list, like Pierre Péters, or with a romarantin from the Loire. But there’s plenty to keep you focused on the Iberian side of the list, including a Niepoort Vinho Verde and an Aphros sparkling vinhão, not to mention multiple Txakoli, white and red, and godellos from Galicia. Order the Cune Imperial 2001 Gran Reserva with the chorizo, thin slices that melt in your mouth to make the Rioja taste that much better and you might as well be in Spain.
April 2017: Led by Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer, this West Side palace of Ibérico ham, paella and tapas boasts one of the most important Spanish-heavy wine lists in New York. Going against the grain of the typical brand-focused Spanish wine list, Caitlin Doonan presents a broad spectrum of Sherry, hard-to-find, mineral-inflected whites and unheralded reds of Green Spain. She also spotlights the soils of Rioja, and separates vinos de bodega from vinos de terruño. Arrive shortly after the doors open to have a “mine, all mine!” moment in the expansive space, grab a seat at the bar for some vermut and octopus and wrap it up with a walk on the Hudson. —Sarah Sutel Looper
The scene took on a new degree of intensity when, last spring, Evil Twin Brewing honcho Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø left his native Copenhagen and relocated with his family to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to help open Tørst, a neo-Nordic temple to haute beer. The Danish expat’s Scandinavian sensibilities permeate the space, with stylish teak wood tables set along one side of the room and an austere white marble bar along the other. On any given night, about a third of the 21 rotating draft selections—poured from a hi-tech draft system dubbed the “Flux Capacitor”—are dedicated to Evil Twin’s brews, ranging from the evanescent 2.7 percent abv Bikini Beer to the inky, commanding Bourbon barrel–aged imperial stout, Even More Jesus. Other drafts come from acclaimed domestic and international microbrewers, like Vermont’s Hill Farmstead and Cologne’s Freigeist Bierkultur. The expansive bottle list includes rare vintages from the likes of Cantillon, De Dolle and Drie Fonteinen. Luksus, a miniscule restaurant concealed in Tørst’s teeny-tiny back room, is where chef and co-owner Daniel Burns, who put in time at Momofuku Labs and Noma, churns out a $95 five-course tasting menu of ascetic but wildly flavorful Nordic-inspired dishes, paired exclusively with beer.
April 2016 Update: No place in New York takes beer as seriously as Tørst. There’s the custom 21-tap system that ensures the perfect pour with precise temperature and carbonation controls, and there’s the sheer number of beers and ales that Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing has compiled. The lengthy bottle list includes selections from renowned American breweries like Crooked Stave and Prairie Artisan Ales as well as European ones—check out the Fantôme and De Molen, which are nearly impossible to find elsewhere. Bottle options show off the complexity of Brettanomyces-influenced farmhouse beers, the souring impact of Lactobacillus in aged Belgian lambic and the effects of barrel aging on a wide range of styles. And the team knows the stories behind each beer: where it comes from, the people who made it and why it’s significant. —Zach Siegel
April 2017: Tørst takes beer as seriously as any top restaurant takes wine. There’s the custom 21-tap system that ensures precise temperature and carbonation for the perfect pour. The sheer number of beers and ales that Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing and beverage manager Mike Amidei have compiled make this a haven for beer heads and wine lovers alike. —Zach B. Siegel
Sandwiched between the Hudson River and the southern terminus of the High Line, the Whitney Museum’s new home is the latest transformation of NYC’s Meatpacking District. Renzo Piano designed the cantilevered building, creating a sheltered public space below and a glassed-in restaurant that looks stark and minimalist from the outside. Inside, wooden tables form a line under fi ve enormous peach-colored domes; their warm light over the blond wood of the bar at the open kitchen makes the space seems comfortable and welcoming, especially as Michael Anthony’s food starts arriving. Try the fluke with lime, fish roe and pickled jalapeño. Eduardo Porto Carreiro, formerly of Boulud Sud and DBGB, would suggest the Stein Mosel Blue Slate Dry Riesling, and it’s a perfect fit. His list includes a number of Loire reds to play against the vegetable section of the menu: A postmodern take on roast carrots and a cauliflower curry works particularly well with Clos de Maulévrier’s Franc de Pied Ante Phylloxera, Marc Plouzeau’s cabernet franc from own-rooted vines. By the time the chicken arrives, roasted and fried, with tatsoi and dill sauce, the wine is hitting its stride and Untitled feels like a modern art atelier with the city on consignment behind the glass.
April 2016 Update: Danny Meyer’s team at Union Square Hospitality Group is busy reinventing the museum restaurant, having conquered MoMA and now wrestling with the Meatpacking District at Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum of American Art. Tucked under the massive building, in what looks to be a stark, glass-enclosed cafeteria, you’ll find the warmth of Michael Anthony’s cooking and the brilliance of Eduardo Porto-Carreiro’s wine selections. The list is everywhere you want to be, whether that’s Champagne, Loire, Mosel, Chablis or the Rhône, with enough depth in all the right places, and enough interest in tiny esoteric spaces to keep you coming back.
April 2017: Whether you come for the art and stay for dinner, or come for the wine and just soak in Renzo Piano’s dramatic, sun-drenched space, there are plenty of reasons to return, thanks to Eduardo Porto Carreiro’s wine list. It’s everywhere you want to be, if that happens to be Champagne, Loire, Mosel, Chablis or the Rhône, with enough interest in esoteric places to keep you coming back.
Jody Williams of Buvette and Rita Sodi of I Sodi partnered in this warm, inviting new space with a wall of windows looking out onto Grove Street in the West Village. Before you get to a table, head to the bar for an IPA on tap or Monteraponi Chianti Classico by the glass. Then create your own antipasti, choosing liberally from the verdure. It’s the longest section of the menu, and provides some of the most memorable tastes, whether fried cardoons or cavalo, a plate of braised kale with chunks of bacon. When you get to your table, ask the server to decant the 2006 Bussia Soprano, a Barolo ready to cozy up to pappardelle with boar ragù, and the svizzerina, a seared chopped steak garnished with a sprig of rosemary that will suddenly make any hamburger you’ve ever eaten seem irrelevant.
April 2016 Update: There’s nothing pretentious about this West Village Italian. The drinks are bitter and bracing; the standout swizzerina is essentially a hamburger without the distraction of a bun. It’s everything we love about Jody Williams (of nearby Buvette) and Rita Sodi (I Sodi), only better, with an all-Italian wine list priced to encourage drinking. —Tara Q. Thomas
April 2017: There’s nothing pretentious about this West Village Italian spot. The drinks are bitter and bracing; the standout svizzerina is essentially a hamburger without the distraction of a bun. It’s everything we love about Jody Williams (of nearby Buvette) and Rita Sodi (of I Sodi), with an all-Italian wine list priced to encourage drinking.
There’s no better place in Harlem to get a good glass of wine than this sleek corner spot. Owner Yvette Leeper-Bueno keeps the pours as eclectic as the music, with options like Filipa Pato’s sparkling baga from Portugal, Montsant from Sara Perez, and Forlorn Hope’s California-grown St. Laurent—and Mediterranean-inflected dishes to match.
April 2017: With Filipa Pato sparkling baga and I Clivi Friulano by the glass and a bottle list full of Mediterranean gems under $100, Yvette Leeper-Bueno’s cozy corner space continues to be the best spot in Harlem to grab a glass of wine and a bite.
At Contra, chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske challenge diners with unexpected flavor combinations. At Wildair, their new wine bar just down the street, it’s the wine list that does the provoking. Wine director Jorge Riera has built his list around small-production, low-intervention producers, most often from France and Italy, and with particular attention to those who play outside appellation rules. A lengthy roster of pét-nats sets the tone for the list, rife with little-known producers like Costadilà, which makes Prosecco in Italy’s Veneto, and Jean-Yves Peron, who works with altesse, mondeuse and jacquère in France’s Savoie. The still wines are no less intriguing, with cult favorites like Eric Pfifferling Tavel and the Dard & Ribo Rhônes. Any bottle makes a great excuse to order up bar snacks like the unreasonably light and lemon-kissed fried squid and a surprisingly complex lettuce-and-chervil salad. You could make a light meal from the beef tartare, crunchy with buckwheat and enriched with smoked cheddar, or the juicy head-on shrimp, especially in tandem with the house-made sourdough bread.
April 2016 Update: At Contra, chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske challenge diners with unexpected flavor combinations. At Wildair, their wine bar just down the street, it’s Jorge Riera who provokes drinkers with his wine list. He built it around small production, biodynamic wines, most often from France and Italy, with particular attention to those made outside appellation rules. A lengthy list of pét-nats sets the tone, including little-known producers like Costadila, who makes Prosecco in Italy’s Veneto, and Jean-Yves Peron, who works with altesse, mondeuse and jacquère in France’s Savoie. The still wines are no less intriguing, with cult favorites like Eric Pfifferling’s Tavel and the Dard & Ribo Rhônes. And then there’s the beef tartare, crunchy with buckwheat and enriched with smoked cheddar…
April 2017: Wildair is consistently packed, drawing people in with what’s likely the longest selection of pét-nats in the city, as well as a cellar packed with small-production, biodynamic producers from around the world, at encouraging prices. It’s the work of Jorge Riera, whose list is as challenging and delicious as the food turned out by Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske. The team also runs Contra, just up the street.