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Best Wine Bars . . .


The Bar @ Etats-Unis
247 East 81st Street

The Oyster Bar
Grand Central Terminal

Where there once were few alternatives to the pioneering -- and now past-its-prime -- SoHo Kitchen and Bar, we suddenly have a choice of more than a dozen new places to sniff, swirl, and sip. There can never be enough of these casual bar-restaurant hybrids, a haven for both the quick-drink crowd and those who want to make a hedonistic wine-and-food-filled night of it. Morrell's new Rockefeller Center outpost has taken connoisseurship to the next level, charging $48 for a glass of '88 Chateau d'Yquem to wash down that foie gras club sandwich, making it an extremely expensive place to get drunk. Most of the newcomers fall into two categories: the French-bistro wine bars and the Italian enotecas. We're partial to two places that take a more ecumenical approach. The Bar @ Etats-Unis (across the street from its sister restaurant) is a snug Upper East Side cafe with a smallish selection of wines by the glass, a huge and varied collection of bottles, and a menu that ranges from simple cheeses and charcuterie to a seriously satisfying roasted leg of lamb. And buried in the basement of Grand Central, nearly forgotten in all the restoration hubbub, is the eminent Oyster Bar with its award-winning wine list. Here, the side room that might be considered the wine bar by marketing types is called the Saloon, in the spirit of the pre-World War I era in which the restaurant opened. But you can quaff any glass from the voluminous list anywhere on the premises, from the dining room to the serpentine counter to the well-worn oyster bar itself, which was made, seemingly, with a glass of Muscadet in mind.

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