CITY WINERY

155 Varick St at Vandam St, SoHo

City Winery

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 was a bouncer standing outside one of the doors, so I didn’t go in that one. As I walked up to one of the bouncer-free doors, I saw a sign that clearly indicated there was a private event happening. Because I had nowhere else to go in this neighborhood, and had limited time, I was totally prepared to crash the event and pretend to be a part of “Achievement First.” But instead, I walked down to the third and final door, where the cute host told me the Barrel Room is “wide open,” so I guess I was 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 told me that “40-somethings think this is a nifty spot.” Nifty? Really, Yelp?

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 can 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 was 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 got marinated olives which is the perfect bar snack, in my humble opinion.

The Bartender: Kind of hovery and obsessive at first then totally left me alone. He winked at me three times within the first minute I sat down, made a joke about how he would come back after 6pm to take my order so I would miss the happy hour price, then he actually forgot about me. The other bartender noticed this and took my order, and she nicely gave me the happy hour deal even though it must’ve been after 6 by then. I was sitting at the section of the bar right in front of the guy preparing the food, and he seemed super chill, taking sips of some tequila cocktail the bartender made him in between prepping cheese plates.

Was I Hit On? Nope. In fact, the woman who sat down next to me was alone as well. For a while, we were 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.

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THE PENNSY

2 Pennsylvania Plaza, which is a pretentious way of saying 33rd and 7th, Midtown West

the pennsy

The Place: A brand new food hall next to Penn Station, clearly built in an attempt to make the area I like to call the Armpit of New York a bit more attractive.

The Time: Friday May 6, 3:15pm. I have no idea what I’m doing here. Well, that’s not entirely true–I actually came here for a sandwich from The Cinnamon Snail, an incredible vegan food truck-turned-vendor that’s exclusively at The Pennsy, and whenever I’m hungry and in this area, I get one of their amazing sandwiches. But there’s a bar here and it’s open so I’m like, ok. I have some time to kill before leaving for the Catskills with the wondrous One Year Lease Theater Company, so I figured, why not have a drink before a 3 hour van ride?

The Vibe: The Pennsy is massive, and I get why there’s a bar but there really shouldn’t be; it’s a glorified food court. It is so bright inside, no matter the weather outside. The bar wraps around an entire section of the huge space, with plenty of beer taps and teal bar stools. There’s a DJ playing raging club music, which makes zero to no sense. But hey, it’s TGIF for the bridge and tunnel crowd, exactly the clientele occupying this bar right now. Plenty of older dudes in suits too, who may or may not fall into the B+T category. The suits next to me kept looking over at me, probably wondering what my deal was. They also spent a lot of time commenting on the DJ: “what do DJs do now that they don’t spin records?” “Kinda sounds the same though.” I then look up and notice a giant flatscreen projecting an infomercial for the world’s biggest netty pot. The suits notice it too, and they both scoff in disgust and horror. One of them says, “is that a blender???” Even if you slap a fresh coat of paint on it, this neighborhood will always be the Armpit of New York.

The Drank: A glass of riesling at $10. Big pour. Big glass. Everything seems bigger at The Pennsy. They even have a sign on the wall boasting that their pint glass is 1.5oz bigger than the average pint glass (even daring to say, “Don’t believe us? Bet your bartender!” and you know some of these arrogant old-timers must take the bait). Their cocktail menu looks decent, but I just don’t trust it. Maybe it’s my prejudice about the cocktails I think a Penn Station bar would serve. They have a pretty good selection of spirits and the wine is good, but I don’t have the time or money to spend on a cocktail my gut and biases are saying would be average.

The Bartender: All women it seems, dressed in gingham button downs and red suspenders. They were not v. chatty, but neither was I in that moment. Except for one time when the music surged, and I must’ve made a face because the bartender was like, “I know right? I feel like it should be more laid back right now, it’s not even 4 o’clock!” Never has a truer word been spoken.

Was I Hit On? The suits next to me seemed to leave once I started eating my massive Cinnamon Snail sandwich (that’s a plus about The Pennsy–you can drink and eat anywhere). But they were immediately replaced by 2 guys in suits that looked and sounded exactly the same as the other guys. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. The suit closest to me turned, pointed to my sandwich and said, “That looks great, where’d you get it?” Through a very full mouth, I managed to eek out “Cmmamon Smail.” He didn’t talk to me again because I was obviously more invested in the sandwich than I would ever be in a conversation with him.

Should You Drink Here Alone? There’s nothing wrong with The Pennsy. But frankly, the best thing it’s got going for it is the food, not the bar, so next time, I’m just gonna get my yummy vegan sandwich and peace out.