Let me go ahead and clarify right off the bat; no, this title is in no way a reference to Amy Winehouse fans. What I am looking to share with you is the 411 on the most low-key, relaxing music venue I’ve ever experienced in NYC: SoHo’s City Winery (Varick @ Vandam). This place is hands down my ideal spot to grab a drink, a light bite (or delicious dinner) and relax into an evening of musical delight + witty stage banter with stripped down performances from some of the most celebrated artists in the biz.
Element 1: Drinks – City Winery’s got this on lock down. With their own winery in house, they knock out awesome bottles and even have membership for vino-philes to come in and make their own private-label wines. If you’re not fiending some fermented grape action – they’ve got an extensive full bar plus lots of import and domestic brews for sale.
Element 2: Eats – If you’ve got a smaller menu that’s built to be paired with delicious, small-batch wines, chances are you’ve made sure your offerings are pretty damn tasty. I’ve consistently had solid food ranging from their crispy flatbread pizzas, to the awesomely shareable hummus plate. Recently tried the Roasted Beet Salad ($10) which to my surprise (and eventual delight) was deconstructed and plated in a linear fashion. The sliders ($14) were also a crowd pleaser, though as a friend pointed out, eating in the dark is not the ideal so maybe show up a bit early to eat before the lights dim and the music begins.
Element 3: Music – The massive multi-tiered dining room is a welcoming space where you can partake in delicious eats and drinks while listening to world-class musicians. Their bread and butter artists are singer songwriters who bring chillaxable tunes to the table (literally). What’s unique about the space is how intimate it actually is – the evening will usually end up 70/30 music/stand up comedy routine, respectively.
Next time you’re looking for that rare evening when you’re at least feeling like a mature grown up, go to City Winery for an awesome hang. Whether you’re seeing a favorite band or just checking in for a bite on the fly, it’s a great spot to make any simple evening a sophisticated affair. And let’s be honest, sometimes giving the debauchery a rest is just necessary. You stay classy, New York.
As you probably know, I’m more of a “go HERE for this but go THERE for that” type of gal; it’s rare that I come across a place I’ll recommend for a wide variety of social situations… but then there’s 10 Degrees. This East Village (St Marks btwn 1st Ave/Ave A) cocktail + wine lounge has great food, an extensive drink menu and excellent happy hour/day-drinking-friendly specials that can play to the most casual of friendly hangs to the most swoon-able date nights.
For your next date, grab a stool at the bar or a table along the back corridor for a more private rendezvous. A glass of Prosecco ($12) will get your bubbly self off to a fab start, play it safe and choose a classic cocktail ($10-14) or experiment with something new – the French 75 ($11) is the perfect blend of citrus, bubbly and gin. There’s also an extensive wine list (1/2 priced bottles on Mondays) and an interesting selection of beers. You’ll be feeling saucy in no time.
After you’ve got your refreshments settled, I strongly suggest you consider grabbing a bite. The mixed plates of meats and olives are perfect to casually share and nibble off of – I personally love the mix and match cheese plate options (3 for $21 or 4 for $26). If you want to go all out, the Avocado Toast ($7.50) is EXCELLENT; the flavors are so fresh with a splash of lemon juice that dances on your tongue (forgive me while I have my moment). The Paninis are equally impressive; particularly the Caprese ($9.75), which you may want to skip if you’re on a date but will absolutely have to try if you’re ready to dig in to a seriously fab pressed sandwich.
While date night is always a good time, my favorite time to play at 10 Degrees is with a group of friends for a weekend funday. The front lounge area has windows that open to the sidewalk, creating the perfect atmosphere to enjoy 2-for-1 cocktails (on the daily) from 12-8pm. AMAZING deal. On a recent trip, some friends had the Porc Burgerettes ($9.75) which are adorable sliders made of sake glazed pork belly topped with a fried quail egg and accompanied by a Cabernet Sauvignon jelly. Sounds almost good enough to make me reconsider eating meat –almost…
If you’re looking to throw an all out rager, there’s a back room which can be rented out for larger groups – open bar options and food platters for groups make this a no-brainer party spot. So next time you’re in the East Village without an agenda and with a desire to get your drank and eats on, use your brain; there’s no degree of separation that should keep you from 10 Degrees.
My seafood kick has by now turned into a full on Sheen-style bender; but hey, at least my vice of choice is Mussels. Here to enable my mollusk-fiending ways is Flea Market Café where Tuesday nights will get you unlimited Mussels, frites and a glass of wine or beer for only $19.95 (#WINNING). With 4 excellent varieties of mussels to satisfy your cravings, this may be one of the hottest deals in the East Village (Avenue A btwn St Marks/9th St).
The French kitschy knick knacks adorning the walls should put you in casual mode for your mussel “moment”… please tell me you weren’t thinking of bringing that new hottie you’re dating. Down boy, this is a comfort-zone date night. Sure, you may be checking out that table of hipster good-lookins across the way, but keep your eye on the mollusk menu and FOCUS. To be fair, they do have other French fare like the Pistachio Crusted Salmon (which was excellent) – but we all know why you’re really here…
Whether you start light with the moules Marinière (served in a garlicky white wine sauce w/ shallots) or go all out with the moules au Roquerfort & Brie (a double teaming of creamy cheese goodness), you’re going to be in for a messy yet delightful evening. The moules a la Dijonaise are a nice in between if you want something flavorful without it being too heavy. Don’t forget the remaining variety – the moules Provencales (my faves) were served up in a spicy tomato sauce that was very different from the rest of the pack. No matter the “flavour” you opt for, SUGGESTION: take advantage of that warm crusty bread basket – when I dip, you dip, we dip. If we’re being honest, you’re going to try them all anyway, so admit surrender and quit playing, fool.
Some things to note… by 9pm, “the Market” is packed and there’s a good chance they may run out of the mussels, so try to get there sometime before 8:30pm to ensure your all-you-can-eat evening. The first bowl is the biggest portion, so don’t be deterred from ordering a second smaller bowl (or a third – just sayin’). Also, they only take Amex and cash so be prepared. Speaking of preparation, it’s gonna be a long night so go with an empty stomach and get ready to put in some work – all you can eat is a serious business, and this place has some seriously great mussels. Bon appétit!
Let's get this party started!
Vino-philes (and winos alike) listen up: if you’re anything like me, wine is something you really enjoy partaking in, but know very little about (other than how much we like to drink it!). As such, when I find myself under pressure to select a good wine when I’m at restaurants and even in liquor stores – I usually just go with
the cheapest bottle the safest choice. Nodding your head right along with me? Then you need to make a trip to New York Vintners.
NY Vintners is a liquor store in Tribeca (Warren St btwn B’way/Church) that doubles as a classroom for hungry minds looking to learn more about wine. I recently went to a Wine 101 class with the lovely Megan M and upon our arrival at their classy showroom, we were greeted with glasses of Prosecco – now that’s my kinda kick-off to a day. We were seated at a long communal table with cheese and cracker plates, along with many tasting glasses. We tried 3 different whites and 3 reds (sometimes we had SEVERAL tastes). Our teacher Daniel was funny and made the day interesting, but more than that, he explained the tastes and sensations of drinking each glass in a way that made it accessible to the entry level wine enthusiast.
In my happy place!
Classes start at $50 for a 2 hour course + MANY glasses of vino and range from Wine 101 to Food Pairings (they have a full kitchen for demonstrations). The whole day was excellent and would be awesome for a date, a girl’s day out or for anyone who wants to be a little bit better prepared the next time they have to stare down an intimidating wine list.
Check out their website to book your class, or if it’s a little too pricey for you, wait for a Groupon to roll around (pay $25 for a $50 class!) – there have been 2 promotions this year, so we’re probably due for one soon. Plus, after a class, you get 15% off bottles and cases – yippee!
For a full list of classes, click here. Cheers!