When a new bar opens up on an uninhabited strip of residential and commercially uncharted territory (save for that gritty bodega across the street), there may be shrugs, sometimes chortles, or a wan smile dismissing the plausibility of its success. But in the case of Miles on Wilson, a handsome new wine and cocktail bar in Bushwick, you’d be more compelled to step right in. It doesn’t look new, doesn’t feel new, but rather lived-in and old-fashioned. It doesn’t promise anything incredibly innovative on its menu, and it doesn’t pretend to do so, either, with its understated yet sleek décor. It’s the kind of bar that slips into the scene undercover, making you forget that it hasn’t always been there.
Miles on Wilson actually opened this January, and has recently begun serving cocktails and liquor in addition to wine and beer. Partners Daniel Romero and Travis Dubreuil constructed the small storefront space using found objects in the neighborhood—rusted metal cups as droplights, a bicycle wheel hung horizontally as chandelier base, and wooden pallets arranged in a herringbone pattern against the bar’s wall. A stately portrait of their dog, the bar’s namesake, hangs on the opposite wall, dressed in a suit and spectacles, at first glance a black-and-white photo of Teddy Roosevelt.
But the owners clearly aren’t much interested in illusions or shenanigans with their solid and familiar snacks and drink menu. Head bartender Phoebe Waterson’s cocktails include classics like the Mint Julep, Sazerac, and a Pimm’s Cup with King’s ginger liqueur, as well as “signature” cocktails featuring dandelion and burdock bitters with Plymouth gin (the Salty Miles); lavender bitters, egg white and Old Tom gin (the Violet Beauregard); fresh tomato, agave, basil and moonshine (Midnight in the Garden); and house-infused oolong tea with whiskey (Oolong Iced Tea). The latter makes a subtle presence in an icy glass along with fresh lemon and simple syrup; the drink tastes like a pleasantly whiskey-spiked Arnold Palmer.
Moving on to wines, Miles’s tidy selections offer value by the glass. Ranging from $6-$10, the wines fare mostly from Europe, with an earthy 2009 Spanish red at the lowest end of the spectrum and a 2008 Palazzo Della Torre from Veneto at the highest, for $45 a bottle. The most inexpensive white ($7 a glass) proved a crisp, refreshing Muller Thurgau Trocken from Denmark to cleanse the palate for other tastes down the list. The craft beer selection could use better range and finesse; I wasn’t inspired to try any of the familiar lagers and summer ales (Lagunitas Czech Pils, Bluepoint Toasted Lager, Brooklyn Summer Ale) and wasn’t quite ready to head into winter territory with a bottle of Chimay or Rogue’s Oatmeal Stout. The bar offers small bites and pressed sandwiches featuring bread from nearby Roberta’s Pizza, charcuterie from Salumeria Biellese, and cheese selections from Bedford Cheese Shop. A pickle plate ($4) combines pickled beet, cornichons, jalapeños and a beet-stained pickled egg to peck at in the dimly lighted space.
You can feel quite comfortable imbibing alone alongside others, if a tad closely situated, on the barstools. On a Sunday night, the atmosphere was calm, as my neighbors to the left and right scribbled in notebooks, sent text messages, and chatted with the bartender. Rather than a snooty dude with a mustache and vest, the one bartender was a perky young girl who never asked, “Are you waiting for someone?” as I sat down. Nope, just here with myself, I never did respond. And a good, stiff drink.