Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Ten Bells

It’s good to get out of the neighborhood once in a while. It’s especially worth taking a 30-minute subway ride down to the Lower East Side when your destination is a little wine bar called The Ten Bells. If you enjoy sampling a variety of wines that are off the beaten path, then you really must know about this place. If you have a fondness for tapas and you happen to love raw oysters, then you need to take yourself down to this charming hideaway on Broome Street as soon as is humanly possible.

I have a soft spot for this cozy wine bar ever since discovering it on Thanksgiving Day last year. My friends and I had had an excellent non-traditional holiday meal in Chinatown, and Sylvia had done her research and was armed with a list of a dozen wine bars and cocktail lounges in the area where we might have a festive cocktail afterwards. (Sylvia, who is one of the most well-traveled people I know, is affectionately nicknamed “the tour guide” because of her encyclopedic knowledge of where to go and what to see in practically any city!)

We practically had the city to ourselves as we strolled up through Little Italy and wove our way through the streets in the Bowery district, enjoying the empty city streets in neighborhoods that are usually bustling with activity. After discovering that most of the places on the list were closed, we finally found The Ten Bells. In typical fashion, Sylvia had done it again, leading us to a fantastic place that we might never have encountered if left to our resources, and we were delighted to stumble upon this newly opened wine bar with its U-shaped bar and a magnificent tin ceiling. After being warmly welcomed by the owners and enjoying a favorite sparkling rosé in an old-fashioned champagne coupe, I knew that this was a place I’d have to frequent.

I have happily returned many times since that Thanksgiving introduction. The owners often travel in Europe, seeking out wines that they love, and the chalkboard on the wall boasts an impressive list of unusual wines by the glass as well as by the bottle. Equally tempting is an appealing line-up of tapas, artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. I’m especially partial to their roasted potatoes & grilled octopus with smoked paprika, and I’m craving it right now just writing about it.

Did I mention that from 5 to 7 pm each night, the oysters are only a dollar? Talk about happy hour indeed! I’ve been to The Ten Bells twice in the past two weeks to celebrate birthdays with friends who were lured by the prospect of $1-oysters. (The Scorpio celebrations just keep on going!) A group of us gathered there to celebrate Alissa’s birthday evening two weeks ago, which turned into a very merry evening as we sampled our way through the menu. Then Stephanie, another fellow oyster-lover, decided that we needed to take advantage of the $1-oyster happy hour for her birthday as well, which is how I found myself happily slurping down nearly two dozen oysters last night, accompanied by glasses of crisp Muscadet wine and much laughter!

After a very favorable write-up in the New York Times a few weeks ago, our secret is out and others are quickly discovering the joys of The Ten Bells. I would advise you to go on the early side, for it tends to get crazy-loud around 9 pm. But then again, you’d want to go before 7 pm anyway to take advantage of those happy hour oysters. That alone would be worth the trip, but when you can enjoy them with an ever-changing selection of unusual wines in a fabulous setting, what’s not to love?

The Ten Bells
247 Broome Street (between Ludlow and Orchard)
(212) 228-4450

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