The man sitting at the end of the bar was air drumming and drinking alone. Wearing sunglasses and running his fingers through the glam rock hair down his back, he was drinking margaritas and riding high.
It was his birthday and he decided to start the celebrations early.
"Maaan, the first time I came here, I liked it. But the people--the people keep me coming back," he said.
The "here" in question is Vbar. The location is New York's East Village, specifically at St. Mark's and 1st Avenue...where the aforementioned dubious hair and amazing food collide. This gentleman may have been enjoying multiple cocktails while flying solo, but one thing was certain: I trusted his endorsement.
When we first moved to the neighborhood, we were on the lookout for what would become our regular watering hole. Given its close proximity to our apartment and cozy ambiance, Vbar easily nudged out the competition. The drinks are good. The pours are generous...loving even. Almost as if the adorable bartender in suspenders knows the kind of day you've trudged through to get there.
I had certain expectations from the Italian bar that also serves as a cafe-style restaurant.
Wine, for one. I expected good wine. Their list is exceptionally diverse.
A delicious cappuccino wasn't surprising either. Any self-respecting Italian proprietor would pride himself in a sturdy, frothy foam that stays around for the long haul.
The people--as this 80s-lovin' man will tell any bystander--the people, surprised me.
To start with, I didn't expect them to be so...nice. Nice is usually reserved for less cool neighborhoods where strollers and clean parks and shirts with crocodile logos abound.
But they do 'nice' really well here. Smiling happens. They remember your name and your favorite place to sit. They tell you about what's been happening and you tell them about the big project you're working on late which is why you're eating alone at the bar. They're nice. The candlelit bar is nice. The whole thing is just nice. In my book, good service moves mountains, and it seems like the team here really gets that.
Now onto the reason you're really here. The food. In the best way possible, the food is downright shocking.
You kind of expect pub grub when you're going out for a Guinness, but with a decidedly Italian slant to their menu, Vbar elevates the entire experience. At one point you wonder, 'Am I drinking at a restaurant or eating at a bar?' A bit of both, actually. During a recent brunch that was kicked off with spicy, briny bloody Marys, I was delighted to learn that they've mastered granola. You know how I feel about granola.
Their is a not-too-sweet mix of walnuts, oats, almonds and raisins. Served over tangy, thick yogurt and fresh fruit, I was practically fighting with my husband over who got the last bite.
At our server's suggestion, I went ahead and got a little crazy with my entree order. Apparently mozzarella in carrozza is the dish you must experience before leaving. I have to say, they were totally right.
While yes, I'm more of a green-juice girl, but come on--toasted brioche layered with ham, fresh mozzarella and fried eggs? It's everything you are imagining it to be. Salty ham, sweet bread, a little gooey from the cheese and a little crispy from the edges of the eggs. Go there and get this.
And yes, the sausage, slightly obscene-looking while sitting naked on their plate, were perfectly browned and flavorful. I can't say we did them any justice, as we were ready to be rolled out the door at this point, but we took note to save room for next time.
And by next time, I mean this weekend. I have big plans for their lemon ricotta pancakes. As should you.
To view the Vbar menus, click here.
To view their address and location information, click here.