photo credit: Alex Staniloff

The exterior of Gem Wine. A restaurant door, with red and white striped awning

Gem Wine

Wine Bar

Lower East Side

$$$$Perfect For:First/Early in the Game DatesDrinking Good WineSmall Plates
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

Included In

At some point in your life, you'll probably be sick of going to weddings every other weekend. If you're still a few years away from that, we bet that when the moment arrives, you'll hear at least a couple wedding speeches that reference a first date at Gem Wine on the Lower East Side. This spot is a Goldilocks zone wine bar—just right for many things. But most of all, it's perfect for actually meeting up with your matches. 

That's because Gem Wine successfully walks a middle path in everything it does. With battered wood floors and lamps decorated with Goldfish cracker-shaped fish, it's easygoing and welcoming, while the chunky candles and woven seats make it feel grown-up. The lighting is turned down to a sexy wattage, but it's not so dark that you’ll struggle to decipher the 20-page wine list without a pair of readers.

The interior of Gem Wine. A red-and-white striped booth, a painting of an old sail boat, and a few tables.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

And while you could get just a glass of wine and some sourdough bread and butter, the seasonal dishes here are worth dipping into too. Or, if the date is going really well, you can order their approachable five- to six-course tasting menu—which is a great deal at $75 per person.

The wine bar used to be Gem, a seasonal tasting menu spot started by a chef who was, at the time, too young to legally drink wine. The food here still feels well thought-out, without being too intimidating. Yes, that cured fluke is served inside an orange peel (cute!), the plates are precise and relatively small, and the tasting is called The Experience, but nothing feels more fussy than delicious. This also extends to the drinks—the servers are happy to put on their wine nerd hats if you ask, but most likely they'll just start off describing the day’s by-glass options as white, orange, and red. 

A spread of 6 dishes from Gem Wine, with two glasses of wine and a large, chunky candle.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Gem Wine takes reservations, but they do save plenty of space for walk-ins, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting seated for more spur-of-the-moment meet-ups, especially if you come in early. Just remember that most of the tables are communal four- and six-tops—so there’s a solid chance you’ll end up on an impromptu double-date. But who knows? A few years down the line, you might be planning a couples’ vacation.

Food Rundown

The Experience

Calling a tasting menu “The Experience” feels a little contrived. But if you’re planning to eat a full meal here and don’t order this, you’re being financially irresponsible. For $75 per person, you’ll get five to six sharing plates of seasonal dishes, starting with bread and marmite butter, and ending with one of the larger plates, like the lion’s mane schnitzel. On one trip, we had roasted banana squash with enough chanterelles to put Alice in Wonderland. Another time, there was a citrusy fluke crudo with braised seaweed, and a hearty chestnut soup topped with sage crème fraîche. It’s filling, and three a la carte plates per person would take you over the cost of this menu, so it’s a pretty good value.
Two thick slabs of sourdough bread, and a pat of butter wrapped in parchment paper

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Sourdough and Marmite Butter

You know it, you love it: two thick slabs of sourdough are served with soft, savory butter. The butter is served in a slip of parchment paper with an old, tarnished butter knife for spreading. It’ll kick off the tasting menu, but you should get some even if you’re just here for a glass of wine.
Three slabs of lions mane schnitzel, a lemon wedge, and German potato salad

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Lion's Mane Schnitzel

You can order this a la carte, but given that it costs about half of the price of the tasting menu, you should probably just order the tasting menu. The schnitzel are crispy, and they’re topped with either bitter endives, anchovies, sauce ravigote, and jam. Squeeze some lemon over top, and it’s a satisfying end to your meal. This is a tasty dish, but not transcendent enough to order on its own.
a fluke crudo served inside a satsuma orange peel over crushed ice

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Satsuma and Fluke Crudo

This crudo is bright and briny, and served, adorably, in a satsuma peel (or another seasonal citrus). It’s a refreshing early entry in “The Experience,” but we'd recommend getting this even if you’re ordering a la carte.
three salted cod beignets on a plate

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Salted Cod Beignet with Kosho Aïoli

If no one told us there was salted cod in this, we wouldn’t have guessed. This beignet works well enough, especially when served warm alongside the chilled fluke crudo, but it’s not an essential order.
a bowl of chestnut soup with a dollop of creme fraiche in the center

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Chestnut Soup with Sage Crème Fraîche and Sourdough Crouton

This soup tastes like walking past a roasted chestnut cart around the holidays. Ask if this is on the menu, and save a corner of your bread to wipe out the bowl.
Gem Wine image

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Ginger Cake, Coffee Cream Ice Cream, Poached Pear

While everything on this dessert was fine, we’d have been just as happy if dessert was simply a bowl of the ice cream. It was rich, subtle, and velvety.

Included In


Suggested Reading

Ruffian image


Ruffian is a tiny East Village bar with a huge natural wine list and a short menu of really good Mediterranean food.

Claud image

Claud is a wine bar in the East Village that serves some really delicious riffs on classic European fare.

The Four Horsemen image

Part natural wine bar, part restaurant, The Four Horsemen is one of our favorite places to eat and drink in Brooklyn.

Infatuation Logo


2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store