It’s the middle of summer, and for most New Yorkers that means only one thing on the brain. Vacation. Planning vacation. Looking forward to vacation. Counting down the days until vacation begins because it’s been a ridiculously hot summer here in the city and we desperately need to get away.
Yes, it’s hard to think about anything else this time of year. And for me personally, it’s hard not to think backward, to the vacation I took at almost exactly this time last year—to Paris. It was the first time I’d gone since college, and—well, as you might imagine, I fell in love hard with the city. So hard that I kind of regret not planning another trip there this summer. What I wouldn’t give to be walking along the Seine browsing magazine prints at the vendor stalls, spinning in circles in the Musée de l’Orangerie trying to take in all of Monet’s water lily panoramas, or my personal favorite—drinking wine and people-watching at any one of the city’s beautiful wine bars.
Lucky for me, New York makes it pretty easy to recreate that last experience. Or at least recreate it as much as one can without actually being in France. Indeed, there are a number of pretty authentic French wine bars at our disposal right here in the city. And I’m here today to tell you all about four of the best, in this month’s installment of Used Cork City.
Vin Sur Vingt
This gem of a French wine bar is one I only recently discovered, but it has quickly become one of my favorites. And because there are four locations around the city, it’s quite convenient as well. I’m partial to the one on the Upper West Side, where the tables sort of spill out onto the sidewalk the same way they do in so many Parisian cafes (one of my favorite details). All of the locations are very French in their design, however, with their mirrored walls and copper details. In fact, according to the website Vin Sur Vingt was designed to embody “the most authentic Bar A Vin in France.” It really does feel that way when you’re there—a bustling but calm, sophisticated atmosphere where you can really savor your Sancerre (or your Saint-Émillon Gran Cru, if you prefer—they serve more than a hundred French wines by the bottle). I will say, the wines here are a little pricier than some of my other favorite wine bars in the city, at around $14 to $16 a glass. With that said, during happy hour bottles of rosé are 50 percent off, and selected glasses only $10. Génial, as the French would say.
Vin Sur Vingt has locations on the Upper West Side, Nomad, the Plaza Hotel, and the West Village. Addresses are on their website.
I like Amelie for a lot of reasons, but hands down, the best thing about the place is that you can order tasting flights. No, not just that you can order them, you can MAKE UP YOUR OWN TASTING FLIGHT FROM ANY OF THE MILLIONS OF WINES ON THE MENU. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but they really do have a lot of different wines at this place, which makes it fun to mix and match. Unlike the other places on this list, Amelie is more of a wine bar “with French flair,” as they put it on their website, than a French wine bar. But for people like me, who care more about how the atmosphere makes you feel than what it technically is, the place screams France as much as any of the others. It has a very cozy vibe—I think partially due to the reddish lighting in the place. Beyond that, it kind of feels like you’ve taken a step back in time when you walk in—to Belle Époque maybe? Don’t quote me on that though—I’m not a French history buff. In fact, it’s very possible I’ve just seen Midnight in Paris one too many times. In any case, I’d encourage you to stop by Amelie during their happy hour, where the flights are on special for a mere $12 (and I am not exaggerating when I say they give VERY generous pours).
Amelie is located in the West Village, at 22 West 8th Street.
Ah Le Pif. Of all of the wine bars on this list, this is the one that makes me the most nostalgic for Paris. Maybe it’s because I went there right before my trip last summer, when I was at my peak level of excitement. Or maybe it’s because I was so cliché in my excitement that I bought a copy of How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are and read it at the bar with my glass of French white. I think the real reason though is that Le Pif, to me, feels the most like my favorite evening, sit-down-with-a-glass-of-wine-and-a-book-and-just-take-it-all-in spots in Paris, Café de Flore. I’m not sure what it is about the place that makes me feel that way, so I won’t even try to articulate beyond that. It just does.
In addition to being a lovely spot to go get a French drink and “take it all in” (cough cough more than 40 French wines by the glass), Le Pif is also a great spot to get a good French meal. Its fare includes lots of cheeses and flatbreads and dishes with the word “croque” in them, and all of the dishes are made with French ingredients.
Le Pif is located at 465 West 23rd Street in Chelsea (at 10th Avenue). There is also a more formal restaurant at 2058 Broadway on the Upper West Side (at 72nd Street).
Le Bateau Ivre
As weird as it is to say I think I saved the best bar for last, I don’t actually know for sure because I’ve admittedly never been to Le Bateau Ivre. In fact, I’d never even heard of it until I started doing research for this post. But now that I do know about it, I’m not really sure how I missed it, because this place is apparently the oldest wine bar in New York City, as well as the first one to ever open here. Interestingly, it only opened in 1999, which seems very late to me considering New York is usually ahead of the trends. In any case, based on their website I find this place completely adorable, from the name—which apparently came from a 19th century Frenchman’s poem, to the menu—which has items listed in French with English translations underneath, to the fact that they do wine tastings every night at 6 pm, where customers can discuss one white and one red as a group.
I mean, can you stand the cuteness? I want to squeeze the cheeks off this place immediately.
Kidding—I just want to go there immediately. And if you’re not already off on your own summer vacation, maybe I’ll see you there too.
Le Bateau Ivre is located at 230 East 51st Street (at 2nd Avenue) in Midtown East.
What are your favorite French wine bars in the city (or in any city?) Let’s discuss in the comments below!
p.s. in case you missed it, here’s how to host the perfect rosé party in the city!
By: Reagan Daly (Reagan recently had a piece published in the NY Times about her jury duty experience! Kudos, Reagan!:-)