155 Varick St at Vandam St, SoHo
The Place: A big-ass event space/winery/restaurant at the far west reaches of SoHo (ok, not that far west, it just feels it because it’s right near the Holland Tunnel).
The Time: Monday May 16, right before 6pm. I was coming from an audition, and wanted to find a casual spot to wait for the boyfriend to leave the office so we could go do something fun! Like eat our weight in Ethiopian food and go see Black Swan for $3 at Syndicated.
The Vibe: City Winery takes up almost the entire block, and there are a couple different spaces within it. There's a bouncer standing outside one of the doors, so I don’t go in that one. As I walk up to one of the bouncer-free doors, I see a sign that clearly indicates that there's a private event happening. Because I have nowhere else to go in this neighborhood, and have limited time, I'm totally prepared to crash the event and pretend to be a part of “Achievement First.” But instead, I walk down to the third and final door, where the cute host tells me the Barrel Room is “wide open,” so I guess I'm in the Barrel Room. It must be the restaurant section of this enormous wine palace. It’s very cute and quaint, and everything about it screams rustic wine bar. Everything is wooden and the wall of the back bar is all wine bottles in their little wooden cubbyholes. There’s a flatscreen built into the bottle wall, but it’s only used as a rotating promotional tool for all their events. Strong post-work crowd, plus friends, plus older couples, which I should’ve expected because a quick Yelp search tells me that “40-somethings think this is a nifty spot.” Nifty? Really, Yelp?
The Bartender: Kind of hovery and obsessive at first then totally leaves me alone. He winks at me three times within the first minute I sit down, makes a joke about how he'll come back after 6pm to take my order so I'll miss the happy hour price, then he actually forgets about me. The other bartender notices this and takes my order, and she nicely gives me the happy hour deal even though it must be after 6 by now. I'm sitting at the section of the bar right in front of the guy preparing the food, and he seems super chill, taking sips of some tequila cocktail the bartender made him in between prepping cheese plates.
The Drank: Glass of the Roussanne 2014 from Mendocino, CA. All their wine is on tap; I’m slightly uncomfortable with this, but it’s clearly a movement in the wine world so I gotta get behind it. They make all their own wine, because they have wines called “Sohovignon Blanc” and “Downtown White.” Their happy hour offers $5 off all glasses of wine, so my Roussanne went from $12 to $7 and I feel good about that. Happy hour ends at 6, so I made it in the nick of time. The wine is good, but I asked to try it, and the bartender just gave me a whole glass. Whatever, it’s $5 off, but I might’ve gone with something different otherwise. I also get marinated olives which is the perfect bar snack, in my humble opinion.
Was I Hit On? Nope. In fact, the woman who sits down next to me is alone as well. For a while, we're just sitting next to each other, each with our drink, snack and book. Lovely. I was hit on in the cold/flu aisle of Walgreens today, so I think the universe decided I’d had enough for the time being.
Should You Drink Here Alone? Sure. City Winery is a charming relief from the craziness of other SoHo bars. I’m sure it’s not like that when their events start, so go for happy hour to get that sweet deal and some quality you time.