New Yorkers take their wine seriously, so it’s no wonder that creative wine lists continue to pop up all over town. From cafes to bars to fine dining establishments, New York City restaurants for wine lovers thrive in every nook and cranny. Sure, you probably know the best of the best list – Le Bernardin, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison, Daniel, and The Modern for starters – but the spots on this list are a bit more wallet-friendly, and happen to be some of my favorites for sipping a glass or sharing a bottle.
Felice 83, 1593 1st Ave
The scene may mostly be for singles, but the wines at this Upper East Side bar and restaurant are undoubtedly for wine enthusiasts. Upwards of 100 bottles and 20 wines by the glass, all of which fall into one of three categories – sustainable, organic, or biodynamic – make up the eco-friendly list. Small plates comprise most of the food menu, so Felice 83 is ideal for eating and drinking for hours on end.
Local 92, 92 2nd Ave
The website doesn’t list wines, but Local 92 is a major player in the downtown wine scene. Last year, I went to a press dinner that included wine pairings and each glass was better than the last. Known for its eclectic Israeli cuisine, this East Village neighborhood spot (hence, the name) serves mostly organic wines carefully selected by owner Shay Zvibak. Wines match well with fresh Mediterranean eats like falafel-encrusted salmon and lamb tagine.
City Winery, 155 Varick St
Part restaurant and bar, part music venue, part winery as the name states, this SoHo wine destination proudly sources its grapes from top-notch vineyards around the globe, allowing more than 20 wines to be produced on site and served on tap, straight from the barrel. Plus, City Winery boasts over 400 bottles that hail from some of the world’s award-winning wine producers, clearly why they call themselves “wine country in Manhattan.”
Becco, 355 W 46th St
The budget-minded can’t go wrong at Lidia Bastianich’s Restaurant Row mainstay, where $29 Italian bottles rule the list. Choose from more than 60 wines from Sicily, Calabria, Piedmont, and other regions in the country, as well as wines from Bastianich’s own private label. An affordable bottle pairs well with the affordable pasta special – a plate of antipasto or Caesar salad plus unlimited servings of three daily pasta dishes for only $24.95.
Nice Matin, 201 W 79th St
An award-winning wine list doesn’t begin to describe the extensive selection at Nice Matin. Expect a binder of over 2,000 wines to choose from, and a sommelier to help guide you through the process. Not only does Nice Matin cellar some drinkable bottles suitable for the wine novice, but the restaurant keeps rare, collector’s bottles on hand. Some of these wines, although they seem high in cost, have a minimal markup and compare to retail pricing. Know this – no matter your wine budget, you’ll find an appropriate pairing in this Provencal restaurant on the Upper West Side.
Red Cat, 227 10th Ave
Chef Jimmy Bradley’s West Chelsea eatery doesn’t ever disappoint food-wise (I’ve eaten here many times over the years), and you can count on fantastic wines to round out your experience. The by-the-glass menu has more than a dozen options, and the bottle list is carefully curated. Enjoy dinner in the homey restaurant space, or sip your wine as you nibble in the lively bar at the front of the restaurant.
Buceo 95, 201 W 95th St
I’ve lived on the Upper West for eight years and wanted to try this Spanish wine bar since I first discovered it. Finally, a few weeks back, I stopped in late-night for a glass and chose a luscious, light-bodied tempranillo. Buceo is not a place to go looking for that stellar $10 glass of wine. (Hard to find in Manhattan, I might add.) That being said, the glasses are quartinos, which justify the higher prices since you’re getting approximately a glass and a half (or a third of a bottle). The wine list is about 90 percent Spanish with a few French, Portuguese, and German vintages thrown into the mix, and the food is tapas-style, allowing for plenty of bites to accompany your sips.
L’Artusi, 228 W 10th St
This West Village modern Italian isn’t just another small-plates restaurant. The food at L’Artusi is exquisite and rivals some of the finest in all of New York, so it’s no surprise that the 2,000-bottle wine list measures up accordingly. Expect mostly Italian bottles from various regions and in different price ranges, with a concentration of wine from Piedmont and Tuscany. For eating, the crudo is excellent, and the simple pasta dishes, flavorful if not perfect. I recommend sitting at the chef’s counter, which overlooks the open kitchen, an awesome set-up for wine drinking and watching food become art.