Yesterday, I found out a friend of mine was moving at the week’s end so being in the moment, I scrapped earlier intentions of working out and scrambled to find somewhere for us to meet for drinks in Midtown post-work.
This area of the Big Apple can be tricky. It has some of the most wonderful restaurants, but subsequently, the prices can be too much for my Off the Market, In the Moment, On a Budget self. So I nixed my big-spender notions of lounging with champagne in the Algonquin Hotel lobby or bellying up to the infamous King Cole Bar at the St. Regis in favor of another idea given to me by NYMag.com: Sofia’s Wine Bar.
The magazine has never led me wrong, but with Manhattan, the truth is you just never know (though let’s be honest, my toes were hurting so much from walking four avenues in heels that by the time I got there, I would have stayed put no matter what the spot looked like). As it was, Sofia’s swept my friend and me off our tired little feet.
I arrived early and ventured in to the dimly lit, brick-walled café solo and looking lost but was made to feel immediately at home by the handsome Italian bartender who greeted me with “Hello Bella.” Swoon. My friend came in moments later, and we were given our pick of seating in the cozy restaurant as another handsome Italian, our waiter, arrived to offer suggestions on the more than 80 wines offered by the glass. Though we were one of “those” tables that couldn’t commit to a choice right away (we hadn’t seen each other in months and had to catch up before focusing on the menu), he was patient and even brought a few selections for my friend to taste before making her selection.
The service had already won our favor, but we were further wooed by the simple, homey touches. Mix-matched plates and dishtowels serving as napkins created a feeling of sitting in your Nonnna’s kitchen. Small plates were available, in addition to the standard antipasti, and we happily shared a margherita pizza between us, which was both tasty as well as the perfect portion. Amid bites, I think we said “I love this place,” ten times. And let’s not forget, you can always tell a quality spot by the restaurant’s WC, which I found to be cozy (as strange as that sounds) with fun touches such as olive oil handwash.
In the Moment: Already dubbed a Critics’ Pick by New York magazine, I expected the spot to be packed. But despite our last minute plans, it was easy to grab a table when we arrived and we were never rushed, despite the fact we were slow to both order and eat.
Off the Market: Sofia’s is a great spot off the busier avenues for catching up with friends and significant others, but it’s also Off the Market Friendly. Unlike some other venues, I would be totally comfortable enjoying a glass solo at the bar, chatting with the friendly staff. In fact, a few people were winding down their day without giving off the “weird single guy” or “girl wanting to be picked up” vibe.
On a Budget: The price point mid-range, but the service, food, and wine were most excellent, and the ability to split a meal won us over. The breakdown: $22 on half a pizza and a full glass of Sauvignon Blanc. This is a must-know-about spot for anyone working in Midtown who wants to avoid the crowd of P.J. Clarke’s or the exorbitant dollar signs of hotel bars.
Sofia’s Wine Bar
242 East 50th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)