Bowery Wine Company
11 E 1st St, between Bowery and Second Ave
So Bruce Willis started a soulless, sterile wine bar near the Bowery that reminds me of an airport and smells like a rental car. But just because there aren’t words written in feces on the bathroom wall like they are at lord-of-the-dives Mars Bar around the corner (the only true measure of a bar’s warmth and quirkiness), and because it lacks any recognizable character whatsoever, doesn’t mean that Bowery Wine Company isn’t run by a kind and generous staff, or that its wines aren’t excellent. It is, and they are.
But although it’s technically a wine bar — for the title tells us so, as do the antique but regimentally framed corkscrews lining the 20-foot ceiling columns — the focus inside is on the twinkling top-shelf liquors behind the bar and the glassy flat-screen TVs towering above, playing the Yankees game. The wine-and-snacks menu, however, a fat little tome bound in cork covers, emphasizes the dozens of wines by the glass, bottle and half-bottle — priced surprisingly well, with bottles from $24 to $250, most hovering in the $35 range. And instead of a softening, earth-tone-clad wine aficionado, Bowery Wine Co.’s bartender/sommelier is a fit and spiky-haired, Tic-Tac-toothed man you’d expect to see pouring show-off cocktails in the Meatpacking District.
It’s a giant and intimidatingly sleek bar, with immaculate geometric black leather couches, a panel of morphing neon light and a pristine patio facing a wall-sized advertisement for an apartment development, but it might be more welcoming in the summer, when the sun goes down and its huge windows and vast airspace make it feel breezy and comfortable instead of like a Vegas bank lobby. The soundtrack is filled with atrocities like ‘Had a Bad Day’, followed by Young Dro’s ‘Shoulder Lean’ — But you know what? Nevermind. If I were a famous movie star with some extra money, as Bruce Willis presumably is, I would start a weird bar too, made from all my favorite things, and I wouldn’t care if no one liked it. It would have only Bone Thugs and Neil Diamond on the stereo, wine would be $2, there would be live kittens to play with, and the dress code would be sweatpants.
Bowery Wine Company is certainly strange and probably won’t win over many East Village nostalgics, but there are worse places to have an $8 glass of sauvignon blanc while basking in a boxy corporate shadow. If nothing else, your glass will be wonderfully hygienic.