If summer is all about sipping rosé on sun-dappled patios, then winter evenings seem made for slipping into the candlelit wine bars of the Upper East Side. There are few neighborhoods that offer such an inviting selection of snug hideouts, and when you live in the Upper East Side (can we change penthouse to condominiums? We don’t have a penthouse ready to show yet)at The Hayworth, you’re in close proximity to the city’s finest options. In these atmospheric establishments, bartenders are more like sommeliers, eager to help you create the perfect pairing of wine and food. In the dull, gray doldrums of winter, nothing is quite so heartening as a late-afternoon glass of wine and a perfectly executed cheese board. So, grab some friends and make a toast. This is our guide to the beloved wine bars of the Upper East Side.
Demarchelier | 50 East 86th Street
When you first walk through the doors of Demarchelier, you may get the impression that this cozy little French bistro is a high-end dining experience, thanks to the white tablecloths, expertly made French dishes, and the extensive selection of French wine — there’s enough to please even the fussiest Francophile. While it truly is a top-notch restaurant, if you spend any time at all here, you’ll find it’s anything but stuffy. Staff members are friendly and knowledgeable, and most of the clientele seem to live right in the neighborhood. Demarchelier’s menu is refreshingly unquirky, with standard French classics like coq au vin and duck confit, done right If you’re passing by earlier in the day, when it’s much quieter, you’ll find that the bar is a peaceful place to watch the snow fall while enjoying a cup of coffee and a patisserie.
Vanguard Wine Bar | 1372 First Avenue
If you love a straightforward, low-key wine bar, Vanguard is the place you are looking for. This Upper East Side neighborhood nook checks all the boxes needed for a cozy, soul-warming experience. A dazzling display of wines, lined up vertically against a gleaming wall of subway tile, makes a dramatic backdrop to the otherwise unassuming bar. Candles, a wall of windows, and vintage posters dominate the decor. Vanguard describes their food as “approachable, contemporary small plates” with French influences, and there are plenty of meat and cheese boards to pair with your wine. If you have trouble choosing, the friendly bartenders are experts in assisting, and will offer you a few tastings before you commit.
Bocado Restaurant and Wine Bar | 1293 Lexington Avenue
Bocado didn’t always have a wine bar, but shortly after the restaurant opened its doors, the owners began getting requests to create one for the neighborhood. Soon after, Bocado was in talks with contractors, designers, and wine suppliers to get the project going. The result, a cozy space brimming with reclaimed wood, exposed brick, natural light, and, of course, excellent wine. As you might expect, the expertly curated wine selection is extensive, but you’ll also find a menu offering fresh pasta, hamburgers, flatbreads, and traditional entrees like steak frites. This neighborhood wine bar has something for everyone, making it an ideal place to bring out-of-town guests for a drink and a quality casual bite to eat. (don’t want to single them out for only apps).