Welcome to this week’s installment of Ask the Critics. If you have a question you want answered in this column, email us. Recently, Amy C. asked me:
I often get out of work a bit earlier than my friends, and have to kill an hour or so before meeting for an 8:00 dinner. Can you recommend a few comfortable downtown places to relax and have a glass of wine or beer where the lighting is good enough to read and the vibe is laid-back and not sceney?
I eat out so much that I’m often in this position myself — and there are plenty of places where no one will look askance at a solo barfly with her nose in a book.
In the East Village, I’m partial to Swift’s Hibernian (34 East 4th Street), which is friendly and low-key, with a good beer selection, big windows you can sit in front of, and bartenders who pour a proper Guinness. It is remarkably not NYU-tainted, at least before 10 p.m. Or check out beer-loving d.b.a. (41 First Avenue), which has a nice back garden to read in as long as it’s light out.
In the West Village, I recently spent an hour before dinner drinking a perfectly nice glass of Spanish Tempranillo ($9) at the bar at 8th Street Wine Cellar (28 West 8th Street). There’s nothing particularly surprising on the wine list, but it’s lengthy and it offers relatively affordable glasses. What’s great about it is that it’s entirely unpretentious — very relaxed. I hear it gets crowded later in the evening, but around 7 p.m. there are plenty of seats at the roomy bar.
Down on the LES, the newly opened Casa Mezcal (86 Orchard Street) has ample seating, a cheerful, bright room, a nice selection of smoky mezcals for sipping, and free bar snacks, like oranges dredged in chile powder. It’s pretty mellow earlier in the evening.
And if you can’t decide if you want a glass of wine or a mug of tea, check out one of Think Coffee‘s three downtown locations, where you can get either or both.
Fellow bookworms, any favorites I missed?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 12, 2010