At the corner of Essex and Houston streets, where once a doodle-covered chalkboard dominated a dim dive bar, new French doors now throw light onto exposed brick walls, chandeliers and stylish wooden communal tables awaiting patrons—who presumably will arrive later this week.
Peri Wine Bar is all ready to serve its 120 varieties of wine, beer in bottles and on draft, and a menu of Mediterranean fare. Owner Gokhan Cakmak said yesterday he will finally pop the cork on celebratory champagne on Thursday or Friday for friends who originally expected to be raising a glass to his new venture earlier this month. (The public is welcome, too.)
The holdup? Apparently Cakmak’s moniker presented a challenge to the powers that be in the red-tape department: His first and last names were reversed on his brand-new liquor license, and inspectors refused to let him open the doors until it was corrected this week.
A former general manager with Le Pain Quotidien who also has lots of experience opening establishments for other people, Cakmak said he’d long dreamed of having his own place. A resident of New Jersey, he chose the Lower East Side because he has a lot of friends here.
“I’d been looking for the right location, and I love the neighborhood. I hang out there; all my friends are there,” he said. The space had been empty for a while, and when the building changed hands, Cakmak said he felt very comfortable with the new landlord. He inked a 10-year-lease for the 800-square-foot space earlier this year, according to The Real Deal.
Cakmak has completely refurbished the old Essex Ale House, which closed last summer. It was the last iteration of several dive bars that called that space home, sold interesting beers at reasonable prices, and got shuttered by the health department occasionally.
Peri’s drink menu features 10 dozen wines from around the world, with heavy concentration on the Mediterranean. He selected wines from Italy, Greece, Turkey and Israel, including kosher options. Beers include bottled Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and a gluten-free beer from Spain, as well as several local and regional beers on tap.
The food menu features appetizers such as hummus and tzatziki dips and halumi cheese, salads, a variety of crostini at 3 for $9, salmon carpaccio, spinach crepes and chicken samosas. Peri is the second wine bar slated to open on Essex Street this week; Sweet Grapes opens Thursday at 39 Essex, near Grand.
Peri is located at 181 Essex, just south of East Houston, and will serve lunch Monday through Friday, weekend brunch and dinner seven nights a week. Cakmak plans to keep the kitchen open late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights so that patrons leaving clubs or comedy shows on adjacent blocks can eat real food instead of fast food, he said.
In addition to the makeover of a longtime dive bar, the intersection of Essex Street/Avenue A and East Houston Street will see plenty of other changes this year: Brooklyn grocer Union Market plans to open a store on the northeast corner this fall, and the former Munchies space at 179 Essex, next door to Peri Wine Bar, is vacant and seeking a new tenant.