Midtown Happy Hour: La Barrique Bistro and Wine Bar has Unexpected Beer Specials

If you like to eat, chances are you like to drink (read: a lot of you are freakin’ lushes), so I thought maybe it was time to introduce a happy hour column to the site. Every week, our Happy Hour Correspondent posts about a different bar in Midtown that fits the Midtown Lunch mentality: unhealthy food, not lame (unless it’s lame in a cool way), and most importantly… cheap.

If you’re the type that gravitates toward dive bars, a place that advertises itself as a wine bar might not seem like a joint you’d want to hit. But contrary to the image, many wine bars are more causal than pretentious — the ones I like are certainly not dives, but they don’t have a white tablecloth vibe either. They usually serve cocktails and beer along with their wine, and they often have a great selection of yummy food to accompany their libations. La Barrique Bistro and Wine Bar (39th btw. 5th + 6th) is the type of place that breaks down those assumptions that you need to sniff and swirl expensive wine while discussing grape varietals. Although it tilts slightly to the expensive side, it has an inclusive, free-spirited atmosphere where both suits and shorts are welcome. And if you know what to get, you can actually find a pretty good deal during happy hour here, including not only wine but beer!

I came across La Barrique on a lunchtime adventure, and I thought I’d go back to check it out to see if there were any deals. Turns out, there were. According to the happy hour menu that runs from Monday – Thursday, deals are $1.50 off domestic bottles, $2.00 premium bottles, $1.50 off draft, $7.00 house martini, $5.00 wells, $5.00 mojitos, and a $14.00 pitcher of premium draft. The bartender also told me they were running $4.00 a glass wines. Pretty decent deal indeed. (Although these aren’t listed on the bar menu, their website happy hour menu says they offer $2.00 off wines.)

I was there on a Tuesday, when the 80’s music was pumping and the clientele appeared to be a sprinkling of men and women of different ages and professions. I noticed that folks were drinking a fairly diverse mix of cocktails, wine, and beer. And because it was a hot afternoon that called for a thirst quencher, I wasn’t really in the mood for wine. So beer it was.

First I ordered an Allagash from the tap, but it was thimble-sized 25 cl and it cost $5.00. If you think I’m above doing a cost-benefit analysis on beer, think again. 25 centiliters is only about ⅔ of a regular bottle of beer. And I get that this stuff probably has a high alcohol content and is more expensive, but don’t give me a dainty little tulip glass. Gimme a pint and make me pay more. I don’t “do” small portions.

But in truth, it didn’t matter much to me if the math worked out or not, this Allagash bullshit wasn’t that great of a deal because I don’t like white beer all that much, and they had 12 ounce bottles of Dos Equis for $4.00. Dos Equis is a beer I happen to enjoy quite a lot. And although you’ll probably get a better price for Dos Equis in a bucket at a Mexican restaurant, I was happy with this find.

Food-wise, La Barrique is a French restaurant; it’s more expensive than my outer-borough blood is used to, but nothing too shocking for Manhattan. I was surprised to see that they served Buffalo wings for $8.95. Although there was one other cheap option on the menu, the $6.95 three-dip french fries with aioli, tartare, and cocktail dips, I got the wings because I really think the wings say a lot about a bar. The fact that this French-themed wine bar had wings on the menu at all was enough to impress me; a nod to the 99%.

The Buffalo wings, I thought, had a deliberately French feel, if you can imagine that even being possible. The wings, eight in total, were thickly breaded and fried, and according to our bartender are always served with Buffalo sauce on the side for dipping the wings. The sauce definitely had a cayenne pepper flavor as one would expect, but there was also a very distinct taste of butter. The blue cheese dressing on the side would’ve been perfect if it had been just a tad chunkier with the lovely cheese; and it was obviously made with care and not bottled. Of concern to me was the absence of celery and/or carrots on the plate, but rather greens only. I also thought that while the breading on the wings was crispy and nice, it slightly overpowered the taste of chicken meat.

My verdict? The wings don’t taste bad at all, but they’re not really Buffalo wings–it’s a twist on the classic. And a chef’s twist is fine, do what you wanna do at your restaurant. But just don’t call them Buffalo wings if they aren’t quite that. Bam.

What I would suggest, fellow Midtown Lunchers, assuming you’ll pay more than $10 for dinner, try an order of the $16.95 mussels. I smelled and saw them when a lady a few seats down the bar ordered some. They were served in a huge, deep bowl that could’ve doubled as a grown man’s baseball helmet. On the bar menu, the choices were Marinieres Classic with white wine and shallots; Espagnoles with shallots, white wine and chorizo; Italiennes with garlic, tomato, and crushed red pepper; Dijon with white wine and mustard cream sauce; and the one that had all my favorite ingredients, the Paysanne with bacon, goat cheese and beer sauce! Oh, the bread-sopping possibilities.

So, everyone. If you’re willing to give a “snobby” wine bar a shot, this would be good place to start. And if you’re a wine bar frequenter already, I would love to see what you think about their wines. I didn’t try any wine this time around, but I’m eager to go back for some vino and mussels on the (relatively) cheap.

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • I like wine bars, and this one is on the non-snooty side.
  • The beer and wine specials are cheaper than lots of bars and pubs in Midtown.
  • It’s OK to be yourself here, and that’s good because I wear sneakers and I like beer.

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • A wine bar? Are you kidding me?
  • A French bistro for happy hour? Are you kidding me?
  • I love B-wings, but the wings here aren’t really authentic, and they don’t have a lot of appetizer options that are reasonably priced.

La Barrique, 38 W 39th Street, 212-221-1971

1 Comment

  • Yeah, $5 for 8 ounces of what appears to be the Allagash White is not a good deal. It’s a normal-strength (5%), light-on-the-palate beer that you find everywhere for $6-$7 a pint.

    I’m guessing a pitcher of this would not, in fact, cost $14.

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