What happens when a Canadian walks into a bar in New York City?
You get Wallflower, a Greenwich Village cocktail bar and bistro owned by Canadian hospitality guru, Jason Soloway. And in case you haven’t heard, Soloway’s little watering hole is creating a buzz in the food and drink world, quickly earning creds as one of the best bars in New York City. With just 30 seats, this tiny bistro serves exquisite French-inspired fare and has earned rave reviews in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair. It’s also a stone’s throw from some iconic Greenwich Village digs, such as the historic Stonewall Inn, The Village Vanguard, and The Waverly Inn.
But now there’s another reason to visit this bohemian ‘hood: to sample Wallflower’s delightful craft cocktail menu, curated by mixology guru Xavier Herit (formerly of Daniel). When in New York City, we fulfilled our patriotic duty and visited this little drinking den with a Canuck owner.
Entering the eatery, brace yourself for a tiny but stylish space. Two skinny rooms are squeezed with square tables, amidst elegantly decorated white brick walls and beneath an old-timey tin ceiling that conjures Old New York. One room over, the bar opens onto the front room, where there’s a marble countertop with stools.
This is Wallflower’s appeal: it’s half-hidden on a leafy street, with almost no signage outside. It achieves intimate and cozy in overwrought, over-crowded New York City, with many 9-5ers retreating here for libations after a long day at the office. Other patrons are content to perch on a bar stool, sipping, nibbling, and tongue-wagging with the bartender. By 6pm, the place is packed, and the rattling from the cocktail shaker overpowers conversation.
If there’s one good reason to visit Wallflower, it’s for the cocktails. It’s all about hand-crafted, French-inspired cocktails that impress in both flavour and facade. The whimsical menu was curated by mixologist Xavier Herit, formerly of the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris and the renowned Restaurant Daniel near Central Park.
“The whole concept is to drink and be happy,” says Soloway.
It feels like swanky NYC version of Cheers – Soloway greets several patrons as they come through the door, and regulars often flock here to hob-nob with the bartender about what’s trending in the booze department. After a taste test, we can’t blame them. The refreshing Shush cocktail has a surprising sweet and spicy kick, mixing chipotle and pineapple infused vodka with strawberry, lime, and Angostura bitters. For me, it’s love at first sip with the Negroni Carbonato: sparkling Negroni with bitter artichoke liqueur and sweetened with a citrusy dash of lemon sorbet. And if you’re a Canuck, a must-try is the Canadian breakfast, swimming in bourbon, rye, sherry, and smoked maple syrup. Of course, make sure to ask about what else is shaking: specialty drinks are constantly added to the cocktail menu.
Following the concept of intimate dining, the menu is ever-evolving and features a blend of exquisite French-country cuisine that are meant for sharing. A platter of oysters, described as “fabulous and fresh” by diners, are artfully presented over ice with lemon wedges, followed by a row of tender Nantucket Bay scallops over creamy cauliflower puree.
But the showstopper? A heaping bowl of jerk-spiced quail wings, which we licked clean to the bone and couldn’t stop dipping into the dill-buttermilk dressing to cut the heat. Ordering dessert felt obscene, but we couldn’t help but indulge in a few bites of the warm Apple Pie Pavlova and the S’mores Torte.
Unless you have serious control issues, go for the “Let Us Cook for You” option. For $70 per person ($115 with wine pairings), the chef will serve a parade of delicacies from the kitchen, along with wine blends that’ll bring out the flavours sur la table.
If you like to nibble and appreciate a decent tipple, these are your people. Wallflower is geared towards patrons who want and expect excellent cuisine matched with cocktails and wines that aren’t an afterthought. Come on a slower weeknight to fully engage with the mixologist and explore the menu, and if you have time, visit Wallflower’s East Village sibling, The Eddy.
If you’re in New York City for New Year’s Eve, Soloway hosts an awesome and affordable (roughly $90/pp) multi-course meal at Wallflower, which is so fabulous that he himself attends.
235 West 12th St. New York, NY 10014
Reservations accepted for parties of 6 and larger
The writer was a guest of Wallflower. The restaurant did not review or approve this article.