The Bourgeois Pig
124 MacDougal St.
(btw’n Minetta Ln. and West 3rd St.)
West Village
(212) 254-0575

 

 

In high school, my friends and I wasted many a weekend afternoon wandering around Greenwich Village trying to be cool. I don’t think any of us knew what we were looking for, but we were sure that this neighborhood was, for one reason or another, cool. It never occurred to us that, being underage, much of what might have been cool at that point was beyond our reach. After enough Saturdays walking up and down Bleecker Street, stopping into the same bookstores and drinking the same lattes and sitting on the same benches in Washington Square, we moved on. The punchline came when we turned 21 and found only abject lameness behind the now unlocked doors of downtown.

It’s a shame that this storied corner of our city has become a sort of French Quarter of backwards baseball caps and halfhearted debauchery. Real debauchery, after all, would come with a nice sense of style.

Considering the fact that I largely stay away from these parts, I’m especially grateful for accidentally finding what I was always looking for — a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it wine bar in the middle of MacDougal Street’s chaos. It was an astonishing Happy Hour that brought me in, but it’s the snacks that keep The Bourgeois Pig alive in my workday-hardened heart.

Despite their price gouging, the swankier lounges of New York City usually win me over for their comfort. My fondest drinking memories are of the Holly Bush (and other such pubs) in Olde London Towne. Its cozy corners soothed my achy muscles after a hard day’s toil, but for all its comfort it was certainly not expensive, nor pretentious. It was just a simple room that grasped the basic human need for atmosphere, for a warm place to vent and drink and hopefully laugh. Not being used to this treatment in New York, The Bourgeois Pig’s overwhelming softness is a real surprise considering the prices they let you get away with.

Everyone is beautiful in its red-hued darkness, and everyone is sleepy in its plush loveseats and vintage, pillowy chairs. Where better to normalize than here, with their evolving, carefully selected wine list at half-off until well into the evening? Oh, but we’re not here to talk about the wine.

A glance over the menu reveals the usual suspects — the cheese plate for one or two, the fondue, the wedge of brie. Is there really a unique way to deliver these goods? Well, you can try baking the brie in a thin, flaky philo and present it soaking in a plate of maple syrup, for one. Or you could offer a generously sliced 10-selection cheese plate (for the price of four tiny samples anywhere else in town) served on a board that groans under the weight of the fruits, breads, chutneys, and tapanades that accompany it.

In other words, The Bourgeois Pig offers a curious bar-snacks-as-dinner menu, served with pride, friendliness, a humbling sense of humor, and a bit of panache that only gets better as you work through a bottle and become ever more engrossed in your conversation. Ahh, but we’re not here to talk about the wine.

I’m so rarely satisfied with typical wine bar fare that I’ve stopped ordering it. Anyone can cut a few slices of cheese, after all, but few understand the nuanced art of how to store the selections so they arrive at the table fresh with no cross-contamination of taste, or how to pair them with other noshes, or even how to describe them in the first place. Here, however, their respect for the food is tantamount. During one recent visit the chef was on an errand and our server wisely advised us to wait for him. “I can certainly bring you some food,” he said. “But he really knows what he’s doing and it just won’t be the same.” Bravo for that. Patience paid off in a sublime brie experience I won’t soon forget, or try to replicate.

While he may not know what to do in the kitchen, he, like everyone at The Bourgeois Pig, knows that everything needs to be just right if anything is to matter at all, and that there isn’t any point to tipping one back in this part of town if it isn’t done with elan. And it always is, right down to the pour, the arrival of the second or third bottle (OK, fine — we’re talking about the wine), the open-armed embrace of the night ahead, and a classy adieu to the day left behind.

As you sink sumptuously away, it may occur to you that this whole thing is very, very cool. But it will be an afterthought at best.

 

Photos by Hannah

 

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