Jay Nir was chilling in a café in Amsterdam some years ago when he noticed that the person to his right was sipping coffee while the person to his left was quaffing wine. He’s hoping that ever-so-European comingling of caffeine cravers and liquor lovers will be a common sight at River Coyote, which he opened today on the Lower East Side.
Nir was a broker before he sank his life savings into this hybrid café-wine bar (before that, he opened a “high-scale supper club” in Hartford, CT). When he decided to open a place in his home neighborhood, he thought to himself: “I need to be a part of the new, a part of what’s coming, but at the same time I don’t want to be a part of that, let’s say, gentrification where we’re just targeting the million-dollar-condo owners.”
Nir is hoping to strike a balance between the “shot-and-beer kind of places” on the Lower East Side and the places that are “charging $19 for a cocktail.” So he’s offering $3 espressos and $7 Narragansetts as well as wines that are hopefully a little better and fresher than the ones at the places that, at one point, turned Nir off to wine bars. “Wine on tap is a joke, with the exception of my place,” he says, good-naturedly. “You go somewhere and they have just one tap of cheap, shitty wine that I wouldn’t give to my dog.”
To remedy that, River Coyote is offering 16 wines on tap (eight whites and eight reds, from places like Italy, France, California and New York), all of them meticulously chilled. Draft beer, cider, cold-brew and kombucha is also being poured into frosted mugs. The small plates by chef Alberto Parra, formerly of Tocqueville and Public, include tempura broccolini, branzino ceviche, homemade gnocchi, and Ecuadorian-style lamb skewers. There are also pastries from Dough and cheeses from nearby Saxelby Cheesemongers.
As for the java, it’s sourced from Nobletree Coffee, a seed-to-cup operation that grows its beans in Brazil and roasts them in Red Hook. They’re brewed using a neato modbar system that’s built into the marble-and-ebony counter, making it easier to make flirtatious banter with your barista and invite them over to your table for some post-shift vino.
121 Ludlow St., bet. Rivington and Delancey Sts., Lower East Side; 212-477-0100; open Sunday to Thursday from 8am to midnight, Friday to Saturday from 8am to 2am.