Most places either feel like bars (where you can also maybe eat) or restaurants (where you can also maybe drink). Gem Wine, which is around the corner from its sister restaurant Gem on the Lower East Side, is that rare, perfect middle ground. Whether you're looking for drinks, dinner, or a bottle (or two) of wine and some snacks, this spot has you covered.
In terms of alcohol, only wine is available—and the selection revolves around natural winemakers, so expect some funky and effervescent options. There's no wine list, which means you'll have to discuss what you're looking for with your server. If you want to try some different things, there are a handful of wines by the glass for $15 each, and you can expect at least one type of red, white, sparkling, orange, and rosé.
For small bites, get a round of bread with salted butter, a plate of hot coppa, and some semi-soft aarewasser cheese with fruit preserve. Or, if you're looking for something more substantial, we like the lamb tartare tossed in a creamy oyster emulsion and the hearty white beans with big chunks of confit albacore. (Sadly, some of these items might not be available when you visit—because the menu changes often.)
Most of the seating is at small, communal tables that are arranged in a way that makes you feel like you’re in a library reading room, and you won't see people standing around, filling every inch of the space. Surprisingly, this bar has more of a corporate schedule (open Monday-Friday), which is fine because it’s one of the first places you'll want to go to for a date or a hang after a long day of doing that thing you do for paychecks.