Perhaps it’s the slow, bluesy chords flowing from the guitarist in the corner that compel the customer to put down her drink, pick up a stick of chalk, and scrawl a wistful message on the bar. Or perhaps it’s the flicker of candles––their golden halos staving off the city night––that has inspired this misty-eyed inscription. Far from being annoyed at the graffiti now adorning his workspace, the bartender leans over to read the patron’s message, smiling knowingly at the freshly penned late-night bulletin. With a grin and a poured glass of wine, he coaxes a smile from her as she swipes her words from the board.
Such intimate, inviting evenings are a regular occurrence at Sweet Grapes Wine Bar, where a vast collection of vinous libations and snacks keep guests chatting and laughing into the wee hours of the morning. The chalkboard-topped bar affords customers a blank expanse to fill with favorite quotes or high-school locker combinations, while an ever-changing lineup of musicians floods the space with live tunes on a regular basis.
Fusing the best parts of a posh New York nightspot and a low-key Moroccan hideaway, Disiac Lounge graces nightly crowds with a menu of falafels, paninis, and cheese plates to pair with a panoply of sumptuous cocktails. Plush red stools line the neon-lit bar, where tenders whip up a host of chocolate-liqueur-infused libations, stir signature martinis in 16 flavors, and pour spirits aged in the choicest of camel humps. Bedecked with hints of crimson and gold, the intimate lounge plays host to a daily happy hour, and can be reserved in advance for private parties. Profilers from New York magazine praise the laid-back lounge for its mesmerizing interior, and maintain the bar's real draw lies in "pleasant patio […] laden with lanterns and Moroccan-style poufs for perching." Readers also chimed in with an almost-perfect 9 out of 10 review, only previously achieved when Roger Ebert reviewed the film adaptation of Ebert: An Autobiography.
Like any good basement, Cellar 58 is full of secrets. Hidden in the back of the East Village eatery is a wine-tasting room—recently described as "elegant" by New York magazine—that shelters more than 150 varietals hailing from such overlooked countries as Greece and Bulgaria. Two-dozen wines can be poured by the glass, including several culled from the vineyards of Italy, France, and similarly eminent regions.
There also lurks a surprising treasure in the front dining room. Marble-topped tables play host to entrees and small plates prepared by chef Fabio Bano, who comes to Cellar 58 from the ultra-private Soho House. Using cooking methods that he learned and perfected in Italy, Bano handcrafts pastas and inventive desserts, which, like top-secret memos, melt satisfyingly upon entering the mouth.
At Cacio e Vino, chefs craft a menu of authentic Sicilian specialties made from fresh, imported regional ingredients such as bronte pistachios and giarratana onions mined from the Iblei Mountains. Small plates such as baked Mediterranean sardines mingle with entrees such as veal stuffed with bread, raisins, and primo sale cheese and a sommelier remains on hand to match meals with delicious inebriants from the wine bar. Cacio e Vino facilitates a festive, familial atmosphere with frequent events such as wine tastings, prix-fixe dinners, and parties for special occasions. Inside this rustic Italian eatery, exposed-brick walls and wine-bottle-lined moldings invoke images of a Sicilian countryside, while candlelit tables offer views of a roaring fire in the open oven.
Tolani Wine Restaurant marries fine wines and an eclectic menu in an upscale lounge and dining room. Candlelight filters through crimson glasses and bottles in the upstairs lounge, where pours pair with charcuterie and cheese. A crystal chandelier hangs above a flight of stairs that leads to the stone-wrought dining room, its walls lined with a bottle-filled cellar and brick walls. The restaurant's menu of small and medium plates features upscale interpretations of a wide variety of dishes from around the globe, served indoors or on the outdoor patio, guarded on all sides by stone and several for-hire sorcerers.
Described by co-founder and general manager Shari Schneider as “a Mac computer store” that “crashed into a wood & brick winery,” Vino-Versity slingshots the ancient traditions of wine into the 21st century. Well-versed staffers help “wine rookies” navigate the complex world of vino appreciation, providing tips on tasting, information on myriad varietals, and compasses that always point toward the nearest bottle of shiraz. Their classes illuminate connections between wines and cheeses, and social tasting events give attendees the opportunity to try out their newfound knowledge during conversations with fellow oenophiles.