With sleek, slate-topped counters and bottles of colorfully labeled natural wines lining the wall, Wildair looks like the kind of quaint little place where oenophiles gather to complain about the prices of the latest release of super Tuscans, say, or gossip about the weather in Bordeaux. But don’t let appearances fool you.
The proprietors, Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske, are the same young chefs who run the ambitious little Lower East Side tasting room Contra, a few doors south on Orchard Street. Which means that in addition to the stout grab bag of interesting, highly drinkable, non-sulfate-saturated wines (the all-natural list features 50 bottles of mostly European vintage and counting), cocktails (try the mezcal Negroni), and artisanal liqueurs (yes, there’s one made from tomatoes), this buzzy, pleasing little establishment serves some of the best bar food in the city. For the heftier items (beef tartare with chestnuts or the excellent pork rillette), try a glass or two of the Mendall, made in accordance with ancient vintner techniques in the hills of southern Spain. Add more than a few slugs of satisfyingly obscure Italian liqueur, an expertly curated cheese, and that famous fresh-baked Contra bread, and we’re not talking about your father’s favorite little wine bar anymore.