On the Town
by Leslie Pariseau, 08/11/2010
180 Second Ave., East Village, Manhattan
Summer in the East Village—not unlike summer in New Orleans. Tourists and students have disappeared. Locals amble along at their own pace fanning newspapers and sipping wheatgrass shakes. Sub a Gambit, an Abita, pretend it's not Second Avenue and voilà—NOLA. Attempting to bring a little of Satchmo's Eden to downtown, the bar with the hotly debated moniker, Ninth Ward, has opened its weather-beaten shutters to the hipster crowds. It's difficult to ignore the implications of such a name, but it appeared one afternoon that the neighborhood's happy hour bar flies could, especially with the help of two for one beers and long, icy cocktails. Perhaps they aren't New Orleans prices ($7 for a beer, $13 for cocktails), but the selection is decent with Abita Amber and fresh juice splashed into everything from G&Ts to the Marie Laveau—a tipple in honor of Louisiana's 19th century voudou queen. The bar is a dark and cool escape from avenue heat with an unexpectedly lush courtyard to catch evening breezes, and it's unmarked (for now), so there's a chance you can duck in sans patio-seeking-packs. If you're game and good at pretending, get here before NYU returns. It'll be Mardi Gras come September.
24 Harrison St., 212-625-9463, TriBeCa, Manhattan
If Tribeca were a vineyard, its terroir would include hints of iron running-boards, aromas of heavy wooden beams, a nose of well-heeled neighbors and loads of pale yellow Riesling. The East Village's new downtown sister Terroir Tribeca has captured and distilled these topographical elements into a characteristically more sophisticated and much larger space, from which the land is definitely benefiting. The guys behind the bar are Riesling fiends, so if you're a Rhine region lover, it'll behoove you to consult with the whip-smart staff about summer's stock of long-necked bottles and inquire about an audience with Germany's Riesling Queen (no joke). If you're not a fan of Germany, you can try a Barbaresco reserva described as "Robert De Niro in a Stella McCartney gown," or consider a South African cabernet sauvignon preceded by a 700-word essay entitled, "The Glory of South Africa, Volume 1." A bit intimidating at first, Terroir's wine binder is fun at second thumbing. Between inviting Vladimir Putin to a glass of wine, pooh-poohing Robert Sietsema's Voice grumblings and praising Jane Jacobs' neighborhood planning efforts, Terroir manages to entertain and entice the wine-shy into something new and strange. The food is familiar, but if the East Village's bar snacks were solid, Tribeca's are superior. Still simple and only slightly serious, dishes like the frisée salad with crispy duck confit ($10) and thick slices of bruschetta with divine Fett' Unta olive oil ($4) may lead you to forget your glass for a moment. Faultless paninis like the house smoked ham, fontina and mustard ($11) raise the question, "Why don't we put everything between two slices of bread and smash it on a hot grill?" Happily, panna cotta with grappa soaked cherries ($6) and a glass of Hermann Wiemer's Fingerlake Magdalena Riesling ($13.50) confirm exactly why not.
34 Eighth Ave., 212-518-2722, West Village, Manhattan
In Roman times, the toga-clad would schlep oil and wine around in big handled clay vessels called amphoras. Merry making and bacchanalia would proceed as togas were removed and left hanging about the unassuming clay pots. Anfora in the West Village is less about debaucherous fêterie than lovely, low-key evenings spent over killer wines and snacks. Sibling to the adjacent Dell'Anima, Anfora might become a rival when guests awaiting reservations next door discover the house Highball (gin, Fernet Branca, ginger ale and lime, $12) and lamb ragu sliders ($9). One bit Meatpacking, with spacious, loungey booths, and another part steely, modern bar, Anfora balances out over the offbeat wine list, which will draw geeks with the "Sophia" from Cantina Giardino, 2007—an anfora aged white ($16 a glass)—and schmoozy New York housewives with a curvaceous 1998 Barolo from A&G Fanino ($25 a glass). The rest of us will munch on chorizo and grilled cheese alongside a friendly, but beautiful Rioja from Lopez de Heredia ($14-16 a glass) or skip to the end (depending on how you look at it) with pineapple-almond upside down cake ($7) and Raventos Cava rosé ($14 a glass). Also a unit of measurement, the Roman amphora was about 26 liters of liquid celebration. If Anfora, the bar, sticks around for a while, we could nip one of those in no time.
177 S. 4th St., 718-486-DRAM, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The sun's setting and the first drink goes down easy. The second drink, sipped from a weighty tiki mask, slides down nicely too. The third you've left up to the bartender who now knows you pretty well. You may have told him about your last two dates while sharing a key lime wedge from Pies 'n' Thighs across the way with a newly acquainted barmate. Such is an early evening at Dram.
Vinyl spins in the background, and a luminous oversized canoe casts shadows up and down maple-syrup-colored walls. An aberration from most cocktail dens, Dram's floor-length windows are thrown open to the street, letting twilight seep in amongst punchbowls and lovers in booths. Calves dangle along stools and relieved staff linger about for last words and Diesel stout.
House-made ginger beer is like summer-mown grass, piquant and green in variations on a gin-spiked, mint-muddled southside and the "knuck if you buck" buck, a keen and clean mix of rye, lemon and lime juice. A negroni on the rocks with hand-carved 'bergs is well-suited to long sipping at the windows. If this was New Orleans, we'd spill onto the sidewalk, slinking along to the house's swerving records, hootch in plastic cups. But we're still in Williamsburg, cocktails in coupes, legs in cutoffs, courting long evenings along the windows.
Aria Wine Bar
117 Perry St., 212-242-4233, West Village, Manhattan
Aria's wine is organized by woman. Alisia is a warm, heady tempranillo. Joy is the racy "Naked" Riesling. Nsiki is a complex, but gorgeous merlot-pinotage-cab franc blend. The Verdemar '09, an albariño from Riax-Baixas, made by the vibrant Grand Dame of Rioja, Maria Martinez-Sierra, tops the list at $8 a glass. Also for $8 is the souffle de cioccolato, which we, the fairer sex, will inevitably order at the end of the evening. In one window seat, three ladies sipped and slipped into the weekly cocktail hour conversation, shuffling through work, pinot grigio, men and merlot-cabs. Behind them plates of cicchetti, or little snacks, were delivered to long wooden tables and a shiny tile bar—mushroom piled bruschetta and goat cheese stuffed eggplant—as classic cocktails were shaken and shimmering Village couples got close over little tables and window nook stools. Certainly Aria can be appreciated by women at the end of a long day, like those lounging in the window seat—who eventually drained their glasses, exchanged kisses and departed—but also by the men who worship them and the fruits of their labor.
249 Fourth Ave., 718-399-0099, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Mission Dolores may not be a destination, but for a neighborhood bar, it's just fine. In the bit of Brooklyn just short of Park Slope yet not Gowanus, the self-proclaimed "weird beer bar at 4th and Carroll" isn't all that weird. It has its quirky charms—what was once an auto shop is now an expansive courtyard where sticky summer nights can be spent drinking local brews and watching neighborhood dogs flirt. The owners, also of Bar Great Harry's in Carroll Gardens, "know it's getting old to brag about reclaimed shit, but we really went bananas." Secondhand pinball machines and well-worn wooden tables are quickly crowded even during the week, and though there's no food—box up some Two Boots slices or strawberry pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds—there are plenty of draught beers, shots of Fernet with Grolsch chasers and wasabi Bloody Marys that arguably could constitute dinner. Named for the old San Francisco neighborhood, Mission Dolores has only been open since April, but the bathroom walls are already inked with condemnations and odes ("Welcome to the ample hills/ Park Slope 'til death"). Maybe not 'til death, but we could while away an afternoon or two.
For more nightlife coverage, visit Papermag.com.