The pretty good: Hecho en Dumbo downtown, where a Brooklyn friend and I hooked up to split the weekend-subway-hell difference and where we were both happy to get away spending so little for such satisfying wine and little plates. I asked for the quietest spot and the host suggested the chefs’ counter, which turned out to be perfect for avoiding ear abuse if frustrating for getting service. And it was a little awkward to be eating, or not, right in front of the guys making the sopes and queso fundido, although proximity saved that dish when we couldn’t find the tortillas and a cook said they were under paper napkins. Crab picadita was nearly as good as I’d remembered from Dumbo, and the chorizo sopes were also fine, although both benefited from the three salsas delivered first. Queso fundido with huitlacoche also succeeded, not turning to either grease or rubber as it sat. An affordable bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc brought the tab to about $35 each with tip. WIGB? Absolutely, if I were in that neighborhood. 354 Bowery near West Fourth Street, 212 937 4245.
The not bad: Trattoria di Vino in the neighborhood, where we headed on the night my consort got back from three solid weeks on the road and wanted good wine and a refuge from our 150-degree apartment. The wine kinda sucked, since there was only one rosé on the list and it was, of course, Italian (those guys make good whites and awesome reds but apparently not much in between). But my chopped salad turned out to be nothing like the slopped-out kind you get at a Hanson enterprise, with good borlotti and other beans mixed with diced zucchini and fennel and beets plus provolone and herbs. And Bob’s pasta bolognese looked sauce-to-tagliolini unbalanced but tasted perfect. Focaccia in the bread basket evoked Thanksgiving stuffing, but that’s not a dis. Our waiter was a bit of ditz, or just poorly trained, and the room reminded me of a hotel restaurant in Mumbai. But WIGB? Sure. We’d resisted the place for years as too pricey, but not now. 2427 Broadway near 89th Street, 212 787 3070.
The half-bleak: Columbus Tavern on the Upper West Side, where I steered Bob after “Midnight in Paris” after we were un-AC’d out of IFC and “Tabloid” and had planned on dinner at Fairway as a backup if we were shut out again. And the hostess could not have been smarter, admitting the enclosed sidewalk cafe would be sweltering and then giving us a table for four for two with a sidewalk view in the cooler dining room. From there on, however, it was downhill slow. It took forever for a waiter to materialize in the nearly empty room, and then it took him just short of forever to report back that the sauvignon blanc he’d touted was not in stock. We wound up with a too-fruity pinot blanc off the syrup-forward list and then spent the rest of the meal trying to flag down people to pour it. The warm biscuits with too-sweet lemon-chive butter were a nice touch, and Bob’s duck was a little sloppy but quite satisfying, with scallion pancakes and a hot-and-lively carrot slaw. But I should have known not to order the Tavern salad that had been done so well on our first visit. This time I got fresh and vibrant radicchio and frisee with just a few mellow leaves plus avocado and cucumber. It all was relatively cheap, and we did get a free show in a booth across the room of a young woman passed out with her angry parents, acting out what looked like pattern behavior on Winehouse weekend. Still, WIGB? Never say never, but the combination of shitty service and only fruity wines is not exactly seductive.