What They’re Drinking In the East Village

Young Nebbiolo, orange wines from the Caucuses, and niche sake in Lower Manhattan.
By Christy Canterbury MW
Photo: Chris Ford / Creative Commons

June 12, 2023

Manhattan’s East Village contains multitudes. Quite literally: the artsy, rowdy, romantic, defiantly gritty neighborhood holds a population the size of a small city packed inside less than one square mile. Home to Michelin two-star restaurant Momofuku Ko, New York’s oldest bar—McSorley’s Old Ale House—and cab driver favorite Punjabi Deli (where $9 buys a two-dish meal, a side and a cup of chai), the sheer range of eating and drinking experiences possible in the East Village is exhilarating. Even more so given that each one of these institutions, and everything else in between, somehow seems to belong. 

That comes, in part, from the neighborhood’s incredible rate of change. There’s a sense in the East Village that everything is—or at least might be—ephemeral. The crowded falafel shop, the light-wooded Scandinavian coffee bar, the cool kid pasta joint. Maybe, like McSorley’s, they’ll be around for 150 years, or maybe, next time you look, they’re gone. This uncertainty only serves to heighten the energy in the neighborhood, the nearly palpable sense that the moment for that pierogi, that slice of Japanese milk bread, that third glass of Gamay is right now

Some of the East Village’s ghosts still lurk: The Yiddish Theater Walk of Fame, the Charlie Parker Residence, the former headquarters of the Black Panthers, the Victorian newsboys and boot blacks orphanage. They’re all well worth exploring. But so are the many raggedy dives, neighborhood standbys and slick new spaces surging with the energy of the present moment and doing their best to become institutions of their own. They’re drinking everything in the East Village. So should you. 

Jaime Schlicht, wine director

foul witch

Food-forward wine bar from the team behind Bushwick’s famed Roberta’s

  • Foul Witch is comfortable and moody, very New York and yet very Old World. The opulent light fixtures, the buzz, the energy—it’s very upbeat.
  • Lone diners are cool. We get a lot of people dining alone at the bar. Just the other night, one person ordered a René Rostaing Côte Rôtie Ampodium 2016. Another guest was just enjoying wine and reading at the bar. Three others ended up sharing the wines they ordered! You’re still very much part of the experience when you dine solo at the bar because we’ve got an open kitchen. You’re definitely engaged with all senses and entertained.
  • I see lots of Nebbiolo—young Nebbiolo—going out. We also send out lots of La Staffa Mai Sentito, a lightly sparkling blend from Italy’s Marche region. It’s got weight and texture, but it’s really easy drinking. 
  • Another favorite here is Heinrich’s Blaufränkisch that comes from eastern Austria. It’s strong on dark fruits but has lots of freshness thanks to its limestone soils.
  • Our entire team is very wine-engaged. Some servers are Court of Master Sommelier Certified Sommeliers, some have worked at Roberta’s for years. Even our Chef de Cuisine worked a harvest at Bichi in Baja California.

Christine Wright, General Manager and Wine Director


Chef Marco Canora’s Italian stalwart with a laser focus on ingredient quality and sourcing

  • In a few months, we’ll have been here for 20 years. Our regulars are some of the most rabid and loyal that I’ve ever encountered. A lot of them will sit down and just tell us to give them whatever’s best that night. 
  • On Thursday nights, we’ll post our potato gnocchi with sage and parmesan on Instagram, and the room magically fills up. We had to take it off the menu during the pandemic because it was so labor intensive. People have clearly missed it! So we started bringing it back the last two months.
  • We have an off-menu tasting menu. It’s a family-style, eight-dish tasting menu that goes out in four rounds. It’s a great place to slip in some fun wines that might catch people off guard otherwise. The Il Censo skin-contact collaboration between Neal Rosenthal and Paolo Bea is great here. I like to put it right in the middle of the courses, with a fatty pasta senza red sauce. It’s not something to have as an aperitif, but it’s great with food. 
  • Orange wine is almost the new rosé these days. The people who were discovering rosés five years ago are now discovering orange wines. They’re really hooked and graduating on to things like Kabaj Rebula from Slovenia, for example, which is textural and great with food.
  • The seasons are changing and just the other night rosé started flying out the door. Our crowd does like the pale, pale pinks, but I like to have something for everybody. I have a deeply-colored Bonavita Faro Rosé that’s smoky and savory. I’ve also got a Spätburgunder Rosé from AJ Adams that’s pale, cotton candy and strawberries.
  • Our list usually fluctuates between 275-350 wines. It’s too much for most people to process. Frankly, I’d rather have a conversation with them. Tell me what your last great bottle of wine was, what you want tonight, and we can go from there together.
  • If there was one thing on the list I wish people would bite more on, it’s Val d’Aosta. White, red, sparkling—these are great food wines. There can be a disconnect due to their very high acid. I pour it, and sometimes I hear that ‘It’s a little thin.’ Thin, I hate that word! The wines really have to be tasted with food to see their brilliance.

Nikita Malhotra, Beverage Director

Momofuku Ko

Chef David Chang’s most acclaimed restaurant, featuring a huge and wild wine list

  • I manage about 4,000 wines and 15,000 bottles. For our regulars, I have a EuroCave where I reserve wines for them for future visits.
  • Burgundy is on everyone’s mind now. Even Aligoté. I have about 30 of them on my list. I recently had a European diner who did a side-by-side comparison of 2014 and 2019 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Aligoté to see how they’re developing and how they pair with our food.
  • Sake is becoming a very exciting category. It shouldn’t just be in Asian restaurants. The language is different from wine, but everyone connects to a good story. For example, some cutting-edge producers are planting their own rice paddies! 
  • I wish people would drink old-school California: Randy Dunn and Heitz Cabs, Joseph Swan Zinfandels. My two favorite vintages are 1979 and 1982. The 1997 vintage was such a polarizing moment. Everyone got into bombastic wines. They say fashion comes back into style, so maybe one day they’ll come back around. 
  • We’re seeing more exploration with lower ABV [alcohol-by-volume] options. Our bartenders make our non-alcoholic drinks in-house. We even do tasting-menu pairings with non-alcoholic beverages.
  • No one here drinks Grenache. Châteauneuf-du-Pape was one of my first loves. There are some really elegant styles, like the wines from Comando G in Spain’s Sierra de Gredos and Grace Wine Company in Santa Barbara.
  • I miss being a bartender. I love whiskey. I used to dab heavily-peated whiskies on my wrist during service. I particularly love rye from Canada in cocktails.

Emily Gutierrez, Beverage Director


Tiny, colorful, crowded wine bar with a big selection of natural and small producer wines

  • We’re very committed to our community heritage, which is very closely linked to Eastern Europe here in the East Village. Our owner, Patrick Cournot, grew up in this neighborhood.
  • We feel like every night we’re inviting everyone to our dinner party. The East Village is packed with places to go. We have so many neighbors, so many small buildings. Our physical community is dense and that’s part of our spiritual vibe. The food and beverage scene here is like its electric current. We’re a pretty small restaurant. That intimacy makes us feel like we’re part of the neighborhood’s support system. We’re grateful when people choose us. 
  • Our wine list asks people to step outside their comfort zones because we have many wines they may not know. Our focus is Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. If someone wants Chablis, I don’t have that. But now I know what makes their hearts palpitate, so I offer something with a similar weight and texture. Our wine list offers a way to travel virtually. You may never have visited the place the wine comes from, but now you get a taste of it.
  • It’s the time of year that we’re about to start seeing our chilled red moment. It may even be more popular than rosé this season! And pet nats are flying. The weirder the better. Heavy sediment is totally fine.
  • We have a huge scope of orange wines, and we can find the right one for each person. We just figure out their tannin tolerance and make sure to serve it at the right temperature.
  • What doesn’t move so well are our aged whites. I wish I could convince more people what they’re missing out on there.
  • I tend not to ask people what their wine preferences are. I ask them, ‘What is the vibe for the night?’ Are they feeling ‘Soul Train’ or ‘The Electric Slide’ or are they more into John Coltrane for the evening? Wine tastes better when you’re in a good mood.

Julia Schwarz, Head Sommelier


French-inspired basement wine bar deemed one of NYC’s most “impossible tables” to reserve

  • There are days when at 4:45 pm we see people lining up on the sidewalk to get in. We are super grateful for how consistently busy we are.
  • We get a wide variety of guests—regulars who live down the street, out-of-town visitors, and so on. I feel like I run multiple small programs rather than one. With our regulars, there’s an intimacy, a trust, that develops. Regulars often ask for something they had last time, which is great. ‘We got that wine right!’
  • We talk a lot about year-round wine styles now. These are often lighter reds, like from the Savoie or Jura, or this Garnacha that just went on the menu that comes from west of Madrid. Our Las Pedreras is really thrilling because it expresses Garnacha in a more delicate, really approachable, crowd-pleasing way. It’s easy to engage with.
  • Riesling isn’t as niche as it used to be. We always have a Riesling by the glass. One of my favorite pairings is our pork chop with smoked onion jus with Riesling. I’ve paired it by the glass with Peter Lauer’s Barrel X, which is a little smoky. I’ve also paired it with a Riesling Spätlese by AJ Adam. I’m a fan of a bit of residual sugar with richer foods.
  • I want people to drink what they want when they want it. One of the most common requests we accommodate is guests asking for ice cubes. We see that more and more. I just want them to feel comfortable.