Just on the edge of the point where midtown meets downtown and just before it hits EaDo1, there sits the chillest wine bar I ever did see. 13 Celsius seems to be at once a hipster mecca with a lounge-ish vibe while at the same time packed with business people who know a great bottle of wine when they see one and wine newbies cutting their baby teeth on those slick glass corks. How I have not been to 13 Celsius before today is mind-boggling. And it’s a shame because this is definitely my kinda place.
The interior is bathed in an industrial-modern feel that is very on-trend. Everybody’s doing the industrial thing but, for some reason, 13 Celsius makes it feel authentic and real. The bar itself is a giant block of white marble (my personal fave) that screams cool and buttoned up all at the same time. And they have purse hooks! Praise the purse hooks gods! The mismatched club chairs paired with sleek leather sofas in small sitting areas make you want to sit and stay a while, which we did. And did I mention the patio? Oh, the precious patio. Perfect on a bright sunny day with friends or with its twinkly lights at night that’s perfect for you and your date’s first kiss.
The staff…oh, let’s talk about the staff! The staff at 13 Celsius looks as if they stepped straight out of the latest Billy Reid catalogue. They are perfectly hipster coiffed from the beards to the large plastic-framed glasses to the plaid flannel button downs and the well-loved Converse. With the look and feel of the place, you’d think the bartenders might not give you the time of day, but nothing could be further from the truth. They were all very warm and genuine, and could pretty much tell you something about every one of the wines in the tome they call their wine list. It was quite impressive. Not only can they tell you something about each of their wines, but they’ll happily let you taste any of their wines, too. I think I’m in love.
So let’s talk wine. As I was at a work event, I could not be my usual party animal self; rather, I had to be my semi-reformed party animal self and take it easy. I had two glasses of a 2010 Mt. Beautiful Riesling, a North Canterbury, New Zealand Riesling that was outstanding; it was dry and petrol-y on the nose, but had a honeysuckle citrusy finish that I love in a good Riesling. It was fantastic and a steal at only $11 for a full pour. Let me reiterate that, were I not at a work function, I would have likely downed the entire bottle. One of the neatest parts of the wine menu was the “Most Unique” category. Being the adventurous person I am, I had to ask. Rosso Contadino 8 (2010) is an Italian wine by Belgian-born winemaker Frank Cornelissen. His philosophy is to avoid using any kind of man-made interference on his land or vines whether “chemical, organic or biodynamic.” It sounds like he may or may not stomp the grapes himself. On the nose, Contadino smelled of black cherry, licorice and terroir, with a finish that was smoky and meaty, sort of like drinking a piece of beef jerky. It really was the most unique wine I’ve ever tasted and I’m glad I went for it because what is life if it isn’t a food adventure?
Now let’s talk food. The menu at 13 Celsius is wonderful. The owner’s grandfather, Joseph, apparently had a butcher shop that was the inspiration behind the menu. The 13 Celsius menu is filled with wonderful cheeses — soft and pliable ones; firm and hard ones; and my personal fave, triple cream ones. The combinations, or “Combinazioni”, allow you to choose several cheeses and are served with sliced baguette, fruit (sliced Granny Smith apples!), nuts (Marcona almonds!) and strong, grainy mustards. The boards they were putting out were simply beautiful and simply delicious. I wanted to move in and eat every morsel on those boards! They also serve panini with meats sliced to order; the basil was fresh and, like the meats, chopped in front of my very own eyes. I tried a little bit of everything on the boards but really wanted to try a panini, so I settled on the Mortadella. The Mortadella panini was like warm chocolate cake for my soul. Served warm, it was bathed in grilled mortadella, tomato, provolone, chopped cornichons, mustard and a fried egg all on a pretzel bun. And served with house made chips. Seriously. It was stupendous.
Lastly, I love when they think of the little things and one of the little things I loved at 13 Celsius was the little lights they sit on the mini clipboards they give you with your bill. As it’s a bar, it is obviously dimly lit and the little light avoids the need for people to blind everyone within a five foot radius by breaking out iTorch, because no one needs to lose their eyesight when they’re simply enjoying a night out. Thanks to the owners of my new favorite bar, though, because they have simply thought of everything.
Being that I live a bit away from downtown, 13 Celsius won’t be a neighborhood joint for me personally. However, I will go back as often as possible because it’s fantastic and because I love supporting awesome local merchants who are creative and have a passion for their craft. My advice is to get out your iCalendar and schedule yourself a night at 13 Celsius as soon as humanly possible. You can thank me later.
1Is this really what we call this area now? That’s so NYC Tribeca, NoDo and SoHo of us.