You sit on the couch at 11pm. “I’ll just watch one episode before bed,” you think. Next thing you know, it’s 2am, you’ve watched six episodes of Seinfeld that you’ve already seen at least three times, and work tomorrow is going to involve a lot of staring blankly at your laptop while you tell yourself you’ll stop staying up so late. But you’ll probably end up in exactly the same situation again next week. Which is how a night at Oriel goes too.

Oriel is a wine bar with excellent French bistro food, and it’s an ideal spot for a casual drink with a couple of friends. Except for the fact that it’s impossible to stay here for just one drink. Sitting on a corner in a quiet part of Chinatown, with an elevated train line overhead, the whole place feels a bit New York-y and very laid back - and generally difficult to leave.

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The wine list isn’t very long, but it is filled with interesting, well-priced options that even your friend who owns a wine fridge won’t have had before. And while you might have walked in intending to just get a cheese platter with your single glass of wine, there’s a well-sized menu of French classics that will quickly change your mind (along with the second and third glasses of wine). You’ll eat a bunch of bistro-y snacks like Duck in a Jar (that would be duck pate) and the mysteriously named Bread and Things, and you should also go ahead and order the steak. It’s excellent, and your casual drink has already turned into a fully-fledged night out anyway.

Oriel is pleasantly easy without being boring. You’ll find a parking spot right out front, and you shouldn’t have much trouble getting a seat at the bar, but there’s always a good crowd that’s hanging out with the bartenders and having business meetings with people they appear to actually like. It’s a place with great wine, great food, and so little fuss, that when you suddenly realize you’ve been there for three hours and have to be up early for the 6am workout class it’s now too late to cancel, you won’t even mind. “I’ll just have one more glass before bed,” you think.

Food Rundown

Bread and Things

Almost everything you order at Oriel will come with a side of very good bread, but you should also still specifically order this particular bread. It comes with a dish of roasted red pepper dip and/or pan drippings from the kitchen, and it’s difficult to stop eating.

Oriel review image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Cheese and Charcuterie

You can order these together or separately, and neither is a wrong move. You’re at a wine bar, so cheese will never be the wrong move.

Oriel review image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

French Onion Soup

If you’re here because someone is having a life emergency, get this. Actually, get it no matter what.

Oriel review image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Bibb Salad

Lettuce leaves with a vinaigrette and a lot of cheese grated on top. The health value of this salad is questionable, but it is a very good salad.

Duck In A Jar

Good duck pate, if not the greatest duck pate we’ve ever had.

Bone Marrow

This came out looking promising, but was pretty disappointing. Mostly because there isn’t really any bone marrow actually on the bone. Skip it.

Steak Tartare

Totally passable steak tartare, but we’d order other things ahead of it.

Oriel review image

photo credit: Jakob Layman


Unbelievably great steak, especially for the $25 price tag. It comes out simply - sliced, with herby butter on top, and salad. Plus some incredible mashed potato hiding underneath.

Loup de Mer

A great piece of fish. Crispy, perfectly cooked, and again, made better by the presence of your weekly recommended dose of butter.

Oriel review image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Creme Brûlée

Creamy and sweet, and goes perfectly with that last glass of wine you impulse ordered.

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