NYCGuide

The Best Wine Bars In NYC

Wine bars don’t have to be pretentious, scary places. Here are our favorites.
The Best Wine Bars In NYC image

photo credit: Emily Schindler

When you think of wine bars, maybe you think of intimidatingly breakable glasses and extremely tiny tables. Or maybe you think of the place where you went on a date with someone who lectured you about grape varietals. Fortunately, wine bars don’t have to be sad, pretentious, scary places. There’s a whole crop of spots with great wine, friendly service, and food options worth getting excited about. Here are some of our favorite wine bars for a date with drinks, hanging out solo at the bar, or a glass before dinner. And if you prefer your wines a little quirkier, check out the city's best natural wine bars too.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Emily Schindler

European

East Village

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerFirst/Early in the Game DatesDate NightLiterally Everyone

Eating at this East Village wine bar feels like attending a party at the all-beige apartment of a bunch of cool chefs. Try to snag the table that butts up against the open kitchen. It’s the one with the best lighting, and the best view of the action. The wine list is extensive and diverse, and you can find some good options by the glass for under $20. Even though wine is a big focus here, the food is the real main attraction. We especially love the chicken liver agnolotti and devil’s food cake.


Most places either feel like bars where you can also maybe eat, or restaurants where you can also maybe drink. Gem Wine is that rare, perfect middle ground. Here, you can choose from a frequently changing menu of small plates, with options like roasted banana squash with comte and chanterelles. Or, go for “The Experience,” which gets you about six plates for $75 per person. The 20-page wine list is kept inside a metal box, and when it comes to wines by the glass, your server will just let you know what they’ve got that day—expect at least one type each of red, white, sparkling, orange, and rosé.


At this spot from the Oxalis team, the wines by the glass are predominantly from Spain and Chile, and the limited menu revolves around meats, cheeses, and exceptional little bites of chilled seafood. Stop by, take a seat on a tweed banquette, give a few small plates your full attention, then drink some interesting wine from a fashionably stubby glass. There’s a big bar near the open kitchen for when you can’t snag a reservation. You can assume that will be often.


A good deal of natural wine drinking happens on Bushwick rooftops, usually involving some combination of climbing a fire escape and a janky bluetooth speaker. At Cherry On Top, things are a little more professional, although hanging out here does feel a bit like being at a friend’s place. The list of wines includes plenty of glasses under $15 and bottles under $50, and there’s also a small food menu. You can drink your orange wine on a large rooftop or in a tiny indoor area that we’d describe as extremely cute.


No matter how much you know about wine, you’ll have a good time at Ruffian. This 19-seat East Village wine bar has over 250 natural wines, mostly from small producers in Southern and Eastern Europe, and the knowledgeable staff is always happy to go into detail while pouring tastes of obscure orange wines from Greece, or oxidized options from the Jura. You could also have a great time just sitting on their patio with a date, eating some excellent Mediterranean food, and drinking rosé from the “Beach Sipping” section of the menu. It's also worth checking out their other wine bar, Kindred.


Rhodora in Fort Greene focuses on wine made using small-scale, natural processes as part of the wine bar’s larger sustainable mission to produce zero waste. If you want to try natural wine from places like Germany, Austria, or a cave in Southeastern France, this place has one of the best lists in Brooklyn. The brick-walled dining room has tons of huge street-facing windows, and there’s also a very pleasant outdoor seating area. Food options include cheese, sourdough, pâté, and panzanella.


The folks who run Parcelle also have a wine shop of the same name, and they run the wine program at Tolo. So it shouldn’t be surprising that this spot has a catalog of bottles that reads like a wine enthusiast's unrealistic birthday wishlist. It has some rare vintages and legendary producers, as well as a ton of interesting options under $100, with wines by the glass in the $15-$20 range. There’s no actual bar here, but the little lounge-like space features a few tables, chairs, and corduroy couches. If you're looking for a cool, non-hectic place to drink on the LES, this is it.


You can spend $3,500 on a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet at this Soho spot, but you can also hang out at the bar and drink glass after glass of $12 Muscadet like it’s your job and your manager is watching. There’s no wrong way to use La Compagnie, a candlelit wine bar that functions as the living room and default first-date spot for the neighborhood. The bottle list is exhaustive, there are plenty of wines by the glass, and the food menu has a short list of snacks like roasted prawns and basque cheesecake.


Another bar specializing in natural wines, June is a truly excellent neighborhood spot in Cobble Hill. The interior is small but cozy, and there’s a big backyard with lots of seating. This isn’t the kind of place where you meet up with your friend of a friend who wants to network. This is the kind of place where you come with people you really like (or for a first date) on a night when you don’t need to rush. It’s comfortable, it’s charming, and it's reasonably priced, so you won’t be horrified by your three-hour bill.


Vanguard is a French wine bar with an open layout, a bustling atmosphere, and plenty of room for groups. Come with friends and get your night started here. Or maybe just sit at the bar and eat a meat and cheese plate by yourself. The next time you’re hanging out around Lincoln Center or Columbus Circle and you need a not-boring place to get a drink, keep Vanguard in mind. They also have locations on the Upper East Side and in Midtown.


The Ten Bells is a lively Lower East Side staple with an ancient-looking space that's bigger than it looks. The huge wine list is made up primarily of natural wines from France, with about 30 options available by the glass, and most importantly, they have one of our favorite wine and oyster Happy Hours every day until 7pm. There’s a long menu of mostly Spanish small plates, but eating a full-blown meal here is unnecessary. Stick to the oysters and the wine, and you’ll be very pleased. They also have a second location in Bushwick.


Whether you come to Four Horsemen for their massive natural wine list, because of the excellent small plates, or because it’s partially owned by a member of LCD Soundsystem, you’re going to have a good time here. The space may be small, but the bar and tables are both excellent spots for a date or small group hang. Be sure to ask your server for recommendations. The people here know what they’re talking about.


Aldo Sohm is admittedly a bit expensive. It is, after all, Le Bernardin’s wine bar. But if you’re looking for an upscale place where you can meet up with someone in Midtown, this one is worth checking out—especially if you're a wine nerd who wants to talk to other wine nerds. You’ll feel a little like you’re drinking in the lobby of a corporate office building, but the setting is also oddly relaxed. You can get solid food here, too, including a charcuterie tower.

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