When the mixologist of a world-famous restaurant leaves his 4-star gig to branch out and open his own bar, you know to follow. We first met Xavier Herit seven years ago when Jamie was the sous chef in the private dining room at Restaurant Daniel and Brooke was the slightly awe-struck girlfriend at the bar, trying to pretend that she belonged on the velvet-cushioned bar stool. Brooke invented as many excuses as possible to “check in” on Jamie at work. And by “check in,” we mean hang out with Xavier and watch him shake up and stir together unconventional ingredients and then pour the most stunning/delicious cocktails that Brooke had ever tasted. Once in a while, Jamie would poke his head out of the kitchen and slide a plate of foie gras across the bar, but mainly it was just Brooke and New York’s most talented mixologist hanging out.
Now, Xavier and his cocktails are close to home, like 3 blocks away. Instead of traveling 65 blocks north, we round the corner, walk up 7th Ave South and step into what the New York Times called, one of those “half secret places” meant for “laying low, being romantic, whispers.” The tin ceiling is painted gold and the walls are covered in finely printed paper that belongs in a Parisian bathroom (a very chic bathroom, mind you). Just don’t hold your breath for a bar stool- there are only 4 at the main bar- and the narrow space that serves food is beyond cozy. Best to start your night here and then move on to the bigger, though definitely less charming, spots in the Village.
235 W. 12th St (@Greenwhich Ave & 7th Ave South)
Brooke’s year studying (men, tango, literature) abroad in Buenos Aires makes her a sucker for Argentine wines and music. Despite the thousands of bars in Manhattan dedicated to everything from trailer trash cocktails (yes, there is one) to whimsical takes on gin & tonics, there had never been a great Argentine wine bar. Finally, Malbec House stepped in- with swagger. The walls of the stunning ‘tap’ room are comprised of thousands of wine corks while tango lyrics lick their way around the ceiling. Slide into a stool in the sexy bar area and let the bartender and wait staff do their thing. Just about everyone here is an expert in Argentinian wines, taking the wine and terroir quite seriously as evidenced by the sleek wine dispenser behind the bar. It’s one of those $20,000+ machines whereby the oxygen is sucked out or otherwise neutralized once the bottle is uncorked. Every glass is perfectly chilled or at cellar temperature. Two wines per evening are featured on the Happy Hour menu. Try these and then stay for the really good ones. World-class tango shows start at 8pm in the industrial chic basement.
The soaring ceilings, concrete floors and exposed brick walls are New York all the way. Then you step back and notice the blood red and saffron yellow of the Spanish flag that dominate the color scheme. Gaudi-esque window panels pop into your line of vision and, suddenly, you’re in Barcelona. Come early to this NoLiTa hotspot for the $6 Happy Hour glasses of red, rose’ and Spanish bubbly. Snack on the HH bar menu that includes a few gems like fried oysters with saffron-chorizo remoulade, slabs of marinated manchego & wedges of pan con tomate. On Thursdays, stake your claim at the bar or move to a table as Happy Hour comes to a close and the live flamenco music kicks in.
The three of us concur (oh yes, Parker weighs in when it comes to our happy hours)- Sotto 13 is the perfect neighborhood restaurant. Housed in the basement of a West 13th Street brownstone, Sotto serves “social Italian,” meaning the menu is heavy on share plates and inspired pizzas meant to be enjoyed by the table. Between 5 and 7pm in the cozy, bar area, both cocktails and wines are 2 for $13. We can tell you that you’ll nevver see that anywhere else in Manhattan. The Spicy Cucumber martini is Brooke’s favorite while Jamie goes for the Southern Italian reds. Parker’s favorite nibbles are the crispy calamari with basil aioli, “saltimbocca” prawns (prosciutto-wrapped shrimp) and the squares of housemade rosemary focaccia. We can’t miss the chef’s roasted clams with garlic butter and grilled bread, Tuscan kale Caesar or baked pig’s feet parmesan. Many of the small plates are discounted during Happy Hour and, really, they are so delicious- and the staff so friendly and accommodating- we’d come here any time of day.
Brooke loves tradition. Brooke hates change. But Brooke also loves a fantastic HH with a delicious, straight-forward bar menu (mixed crostini, raw oysters, arancini). While Hundred Acres may never live up to the former glory of its previous tenant, Provence (a SoHo institution for the ages!), the very seasonal, farm-to-table restaurant is doing a dang good job. Their Happy Hour wines are excellent and more often than not, you’ll have the bar completely to yourself. Sit back, sip, and gaze through the French doors to the quiet, beauty of MacDougal Street.
We’d have come anyway, just to relax at the pretty marble bar and to enjoy the $6 Happy Hour white wine and house Prosecco. But then they threw in the bowls of straciatella (pronounced strahtch-ah- TELL-ah) with hunks of grilled bread. Have you ever had straciatella? It’s essentially thin strips of fresh mozzarella that are soaked in cream. The Cliff’s Notes version: straciatella is an insanely delicious version of burrata. The cheese is our hook, not to mention the lamb meatballs, raw oysters and grilled bread with housemade charcuterie. Happy Hour is 4-7pm and crowded with West Village locals. Need we say more?
The Quarter’s eclectic menu is perhaps not worthy of your entire night, but the Happy Hour selection certainly is. From 4-7pm the house red, white and bubbles are $5 (in the West Village?! Yes, and on one of the loveliest stretches of Hudson Street, we might add). Grab a seat at the bar that affords you a nice street view and tuck into their interesting Happy Hour white- sometimes from Greece, other times Southern Italy- and order one of their very well-priced small plates. If we’re in need of an early evening snack before a stroll around the neighborhood with Parker, we’ll go for the trio of dips (hummus, French onion, guacamole). We always leave happy and so does our wallet.
The barrel room in City Winery feels more Deer Valley après-ski than sleek Downtown, and maybe that’s nice for a change. City Winery is a totally unique space for Manhattan that gives just as much attention to the musical guests as its wine. Divided into multiple sections—one for aging their housemade wines, one for the nightly shows, one being the aforementioned barrel room that caters to the after-work crowd— the venue can look overwhelming from the street, even though it succeeds in achieving an intimate and lively vibe. Brooke pops in for a $5 glass of their “SoHoVignon Blanc” and a cheese plate after dropping Parker off at the children’s museum around the corner. Now that’s a lovely Tuesday afternoon.
Lure Fish Bar
SoHo might be shopping central but it’s a Twilight Zone when it comes to restaurants. Unless you’re a fan of the overpriced grub at Mercer Kitchen (we’re not), follow the stairway beneath the flagship Prada store (on the Prince and Mercer Street side) and enjoy an hour or two in Lure. Whether you love or hate the faux yacht-themed interior, we bet you’ll enjoy their sushi rolls, raw bar, chicken lollipops and a discounted champagne cocktail or two. For two hours luxuriate in the Midwest prices. But when the clock strikes 7:00 and Happy Hour comes to a halt, be prepared to pay through the nose and feel like a cash-poor New Yorker.
Mermaid Oyster Bar
Turn off of Houston, walk past a gritty, chain-link basketball court and step into New England. Mermaid Oyster Bar is a sliver of a space—a light-filled, white-wainscoted fish shack smack dab in Greenwich Village—and the best downtown deal to be had. Their $1 Blue Point oyster Happy Hour special is well known so come early, like right at 5pm. Shimmy into the few available bar stools, order a discounted glass of super chilled white and dig into the Bar Snacks menu. Everything is simple and delicious, though we’re partial to the sliders (shrimp & avocado or fried clam & coleslaw), green bean tempura and mini fish tacos. Tap the sand out of your sandals when you leave.
Corkbuzz Wine Studio
Think of Corkbuzz as a wine bar with a purpose. Their raison d’etre? To get you to know and to understand what you’re sipping- and then get you to drink even more! Co-founder Laura Maniec, dubbed by The Wall Street Journal as the “It Girl” of the New York wine scene, was the youngest woman to earn her master sommelier assignation. Her youth and energy make Corkbuzz part wine bar, part wine school- with a whole lotta style. The bar area feels feminine, with warm neutrals and peaches and a couch or two upfront if you really want to get comfortable. The wine-by-the-glass list is second-to-none, featuring everything from flinty whites hailing from Crete to “orange” malvasia from Emilia-Romagna to a big-yet-elegant Barbaresco from the Piedmont. Unusual apps like their Beet Root Chips with Tzatziki ($5) are a favorite as are the decadent Crispy Potatoes with Shredded Duck Confit, Cilantro & Jalapeno Aioli ($8) and Bone Marrow Crostini ($9). An altogether different- and wonderful- wine bar experience.