Tucked in an unassuming pocket of the East Village on 9th Street, just far enough away from the bustle of St. Mark’s Place, The Immigrant is a wine bar with the irresistible charm of a Prohibition-era saloon, minus the bathtub gin.
The candlelit space, previously occupied by a pagan supply store, was renovated in 2009 by owner Jason Corey and friend and business partner Christopher Carson. Its allure is equal parts historic charm and tryst-friendly intimacy: A cozy table in the front overlooks a window-box of bleeding hearts, while the rustic stone bar seems intuitively designed for the two camps who most appreciate it—early evening readers and newly minted couples. Further hideaways are found in the banquettes that span the long railroad corridor, originally a part of tenement housing.
The Immigrant’s Euro-tuned wine list is hand-selected and palate-pleasing, from the grassy zing of the 2010 Henri Bourgeois Loire Valley Sancerre Blanc to the more rustic 2010 Le Hold Up. For serious vinophiles, the 2008 Clos Du Marquis Cabernet (Saint Julien Bordeaux, France) begins dark and smoky but evolves into silky waves of cherry and oak. Sealing the sexy deal is Corey’s Champagne list, served in his grandfather’s crystal coupettes.
The bar’s nostalgic feel and name is a nod to Corey’s ancestors, he says. His great-grandfather was arrested in the 1920s for operating a speakeasy in Corey’s hometown of Cortland, NY. The large, milk glass light fixture in the powder room was a salvage from his relative’s secret upstate juke joint. About the name: “We are all, in some capacity, immigrants, outsiders finding our way,” Corey says. “In New York City, everybody is from somewhere else.”
What’s next for the bar that balances neighborhood meeting place with destination hotspot? Corey muses of one day opening another Immigrant, this time fully living up to its namesake, in Paris. “Of course as an immigrant in France,” he says, “we could only carry imported American wines.”