The Drunken Horse 

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THE DRUNKEN HORSE
225 Tenth Ave, 212-604-0505
Rating: 3 out of 5 L's

Wine bars, for the most part, are boring: Hmm, soundtracks so mild they make Michael McDonald sound like Johnny Rotten, plus decor usually as exciting as a corporate boardroom? I'd rather be at home pouring Malbec into a coffee mug while watching Battlestar Galactica, thank you very much.

But then Turks & Frogs came along. Turkish wines, funky antiques, hummus—finally, a wine bar that took some chances, that had some personality! It's too bad the owners' formula didn't make its way over to their new spot, the Drunken Horse, tucked between the imposing Jim Kempner gallery and neighborhood stalwart the Red Cat. Don't get me wrong: there is plenty to like about this place. The service is amazing. No lollygagging wannabe models here, just friendly bartenders who never let an imploring look go without a response and a smile.

The wine list is excellent as well, a mix of New and Old World wines available by the glass or bottle. A glass of Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon, velvety with a bit of spice, was a fine way to unwind after battling the rain outside. Prices are reasonable, with glasses rarely going above $11 and plenty of bottles in the $30 range.

It's nice and all, but nice doesn't sweep a hardened boozehound off his feet. It's just, well, kind of bland, with a few antique upholstered chairs and a fireplace providing the only spark of personality. The crowd is the kind you'd want to take home to mother. It's mostly sensible-looking women in smart dresses, the kind of ladies you'd imagine at home flipping through a Crate and Barrel catalogue under a framed Kilmt print. The men are tall and besuited, wealthy and cultured-looking in the Larry Gagosian mold. Sugary smooth techno-pop provides the backbeat for flirtatious conversation.

In the back, people seated at tiny two-tops pick from a small menu. Stick to the cold appetizers (olives, eggplant, etc.) and meat and cheese plates. Feeling a bit peckish, I ordered one of the three sandwiches on the menu, a grilled cheese with pastrami (the others being a straight grilled cheese and a grilled cheese with dry beef sausage). It was not a pretty sight: limp wheat bread, thin slices of dry meat, blobs of rubbery cheese, served on a plate with an abundance of overdressed greens.

It's a decent place to have a drink after a day of gallery hopping, especially if Tia Pol down the street is too full. Otherwise, save your cash for a wine bar with a little more charm. Perhaps Turks & Frogs?

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