L at First Ave.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
The former general managers of Torrisi and Parm are behind this intimate 28-seat, all-day café and wine bar right by Tompkins Square Park. The name references port cities in New York, London, San Francisco, and New England, and the menu follows the nautical theme. The wines come predominately from island and coastal areas, and the food includes cured seafood and meat, canned shellfish, and both fresh and aged cheese. There’s no kitchen here: Everything's prepared in an open station at the bar, which makes the dishes all the more impressive. The menu looks to be just basic bar snacks, but it's much more complex than that: If you come here for a drink, you should make a meal of it (and it's a perfect date spot because you can lengthen the evening, if you so desire). You can order anchovies, chorizo, peppered mackerel, and margie cheese à la carte, but it's more fun to opt for the sampling plates. The meat and cheese plate comes elegantly served with fig jam, butter, and sea salt, and the cured and smoked fish plate (via Acme in Greenpoint) is accompanied by outstanding mustard and cream cheese. It's clear that each item is well thought-out, and it's fun to mix and match the food and the sauces. Cheese, fish, meats, and items like yogurt and market fruit are equally satisfying at all hours of the day, so it's a good thing that Maiden Lane's open from noon to midnight every day of the week.