Two of My Favorite Lower East Side Wine Bars

Photo by JP Bowersock.

I’m proud to be associated with two neighborhood bars that pour good wine by the glass. I did the opening list for Sweet Grapes and continue to consult for Clandestino. I love ordering wine without hesitation. This should be no big deal, but consider how bad the house wine can be at joints that make their money selling beer and liquor. Also consider how quickly the bill can soar to stratospheric heights in places well known for their cellars. I like being able to drop a few bucks on an evening out (with wine) without having to refinance my apartment. Two of my favorite neighborhood wine bars allow me to do just that.

Ten Bells. Photo by JP Bowersock.

The Ten Bells (247 Broome St), named after Jack the Ripper’s alleged hang out, is hard to resist. It gets crowded and loud, but the $1 oyster happy hour from 5-7PM is a draw. They usually have two kinds of oysters available: a briny, bracing northern one, and a creamy, mellow southern example. Get some of each. If you want the classic wine pairing it‘s available in the form of Domaine de la Louveterie Muscadet, 2010 ($9/glass, $45/bottle). Tapas offerings range from traditional to fanciful, all pretty fairly priced. Show-offs can impress their friends by ordering a Jeroboam (four bottles’ worth of wine in one large bottle) of selected wines for between $150 and $335. Those who plan on doing so had best arrive with a fat wallet – the place is cash only.

Jadis. Photo by JP Bowersock.

Another fave neighborhood wine bar is Jadis (42 Rivington St). It’s a more reserved, more curated place than the Ten Bells. The wine list is smaller, with well-chosen bottles ranging from twenty-some to eighty-some bucks. The first time I saw it I recognized a couple favorites, including the Pierre Amadieu “Roulepierre” Cotes-du-Rhone.

Going out for wine and a cheese (or charcouterie) plate shouldn’t be a big splurge, and it isn‘t at Jadis. The markup on the wine isn’t ridiculous, and the food portions are on the generous side for small plates. (The pate plate is excellent). Couple that with the overall “Frenchiness” of the place and I’d say it’s hard to go wrong.  The ambiance is romantic in a low key, slightly bohemian way. Thirty percent off specials (on any bottle over $30) on Mondays make a visit to Jadis a deal worth checking out, even for the frugal among us. It’s both charming and a remarkable value for a wine bar.

The Ten Bells and Jadis are both destinations, meaning their appeal extends beyond the neighborhood. People come here from other neighborhoods just to hang at these wine bars. To curmudgeonly, middle-aged me that means they’re best visited on weeknights or on the early side. I’m long past the point of going out to be part of the crowd – I like having a place to myself as much as possible.

JP Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock and rollers. Mr Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well,  consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.

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This week it’s straight to red Bordeaux. Readers may remember in a previous article I said that 2009 was a great year for Bordeaux, meaning even lesser appellations are likely to be quite good. A perfect example is Chateau Haut Laulion Cuvee Jean-Baptiste Bordeaux 2009. The name is a mouthful, and so is the wine.

It has just enough oaky tannins and restrained fruit to please traditionalists, yet it’s soft and approachable enough to satisfy those accustomed to big, fruity New World reds. It’s a good vin ordinaire for Bordeaux fans, and a great training wheels Bordeaux for the uninitiated. Best of all it’s not expensive. A magnum (double size bottle) sells for $20 at Seward Park Wine and Liquors.