Rule Number One during a recession: find your friends. A free glass of wine is still a free glass of wine. The friend factor--in this case a bartender--is what brought me to Solex last night, a French wine bar owned and operated by the same cats who run the popular Italian wine bar Bar Veloce (actually, there are three of them) and Veloce's Castillian cousin, Bar Carrera.
I had been to Solex over a year ago, right around the time that it opened. Back then, it had a full menu not dissimilar from the one at Daniel Boulud's uptown Lyonnaise bistro Bar Boulud. One could expect good charcuterie, country pate, boudin, etc. Solex, like so many other New York restaurants, has readjusted to meet the demands of dire times. No more pricey pate; instead, the menu consists mostly of "pizzetes," thin and crispy pizzas served in two sizes that arrives with a lightly dressed arugula salad.
I will say this: my pizza was sublime, crispy, and not at all overrun by the black olives, salami, gruyere, or plum tomato that topped it. A 500 degree pizza oven at the restaurant's rear ensures black bubbles on your fresh crust. The pizza was also small. And we had a large. The pizza, all $12 of it (still cheap by city standards, mind you) was gone in just a few minutes. I could have eaten another but dedicated the day's calories, instead, to rustic country bread and more than one, ahem, class of Cote de Provence. Provincial French wine is perfect for cold weather: earthy, tannic, and true to the land. My wine was a meaty blend of grenache, carignan, and mourvedre.
Like the pizzettes, the wines at Solex are affordable, running between $8 and $12 a glass, nothing to scoff at when your wallet's noticeably skinnier, even if you aren't. And if you're fortunate enough to become a friend of the Solex staff, they'll let you play pool on the table in the hip, graffitied back room amidst the prep cooks.
103 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003