Our correspondent vowed to have a drink at every single bar in Hoboken and did so successfully with Spirits in the Sixth Borough. Every Friday morning, we’ll pick up where he left off, showing you distinctive bars in each New York City borough perhaps for the very first time, perhaps to refresh your memory of a fun place you’ve ducked into, or perhaps to suggest a new spot for you to check out as you gear up for the weekend. You can follow our sudsy travels every week with LocalBozo.com’s “Drink Here Now.”
Pino Wine Bar
156 East 33rd Street near Third Avenue, Murray Hill
Getting There: 6 to 33rd Street
Drink Here Now: Pino
This week, I grab a seat inside of a place with no real signage to speak of- but it’s a place that’s always buzzing and always busy. Parked just steps away from secretive cocktail laboratory Middle Branch sits Pino, an intimate and charming little wine bar that popped up in Murray Hill just five short months ago. It’s been perpetually packed just about every time we’ve walked by the space with the open air setting a definitive boon to business in warm weather months. Ultimately, the place simply has this inviting quality about it, alluring you to pull up a stool for a pour and to hang out there for hours.
In recent years, this one little strip of 33rd Street has really become a destination for Murray Hillers with such an array of variety on the block. Younger skewing folks are likely to frequent the passable Mexican fare of Caliente Cab Co. on the Third Avenue corner or S’Mac a bit further up the street. Meanwhile staples like 2nd Ave. Deli continue to attract families and older folks for their legendary sandwiches and soups. More recently though, the arrival of Sticky’s Finger Joint, Middle Branch, and the neighborhood’s best (and darkest) craft beer bar, Cask, have made this stretch a diverse and (gulp) adult part of the hood to frequent. That’s where Pino fits in.
A single outdoor table rests just outside the place’s bar area, where just two employees are pouring wines and feeding a few dozen guests. Inside, exposed brick walls only add to the place’s allure- a casual and comfortable place to taste some new wines poured, priced between $10 and $14 per glass. Considering the place’s size – the ‘kitchen’ is about three feet wide by five feet long and is adjacent to the back bar- the menu of tapas and small bites is surprisingly sizable. From smaller plates like “Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes” ($14) and “Roasted Baby Lamb Chops” ($17) to six different flatbreads, nothing offered at Pino exceeds $20- so it’s a perfectly fine place to get your night started.
There are a handful of beers on tap featuring the likes of Duvel, Empire, Abita and Stella Artois available during our visit, but the place is called Pino for a reason. And with more than a dozen selected wines served by the bottle or glass, that’s what you’ll want to taste here. The 2011 Dreyer “Cabernet Sauvignon” ($14) was a smooth choice, recommended by our bartender. Nice and dry but bold with flavors, this would have been a brilliant pairing with Pino’s “Truffled Organic Turkey Meatballs” ($12), had I been eating of course. Their house made “White Sangria” ($11) was also quite impressive. Sweet for sure, but wonderfully crisp with pungent hints of cinnamon pairing with the fresh apple slices in each glass. Though my party only hung around for a few drinks- Pino earned a good deal of bonus points as a hidden gem in a neighborhood that’s hardly ever associated with places this mature.
Bar Type - A cozy and intimate wine bar, better than most of the others in The Hill.
When to Visit – Any night of the week. The place is always crowded to the extent that the seats are all filled, but if you can grab one, you’ll be absolutely comfortable.
Value - Glasses of wine are in the $11-$14 range as are most of the tapas style dishes. So certainly not the cheapest spot to imbibe, but it’s not necessarily out of line with the New York City norm.
The Lowdown – Pino is a little wine bar with a lot of character and due to its lack of signage, unless you’re in the area often, you’re probably unfamiliar with the place. But sitting inside at the bar- take a look at passersby on the street fondly looking inside, envious that you’re at a place that just looks like it would be a good time. That’s Pino. We’ve been on the outside plenty of times- and after finally stepping in for a few rounds, it’s as charming a place as there is for a glass of wine and some good conversation in Murray Hill or elsewhere.