When it comes to wine, there are so many options and flavor profiles, it can be hard to know where to start. Red or white? Floral, fruity, grassy? And, of course, the big one: domestic or imported?

When presented with so many different choices, it can be hard for even the most knowledgeable sommelier (that’s the guy who really knows his wine), and they’re always looking for something new and interesting. And if you’re a wine newbie, how do you get to know what you like? Well, you could take your chances at restaurants (that are often waaaay pricey) or stores like BevMo! (that admittedly has some great tasting wines, but they’re usually so widely available that they’re not really special).

That’s where the Must comes in.

This Downtown wine bar and gastro pub is a hidden gem located just a few blocks from Pershing Square. With a menu that boasts more than 50 wines from around the world, not to mention their beers and mixed drinks, the Must offers a great way to try a lot of different wines for reasonable prices. Glasses here range from $5 for an Italian red to $45 for a taste of pure cabernet sauvignon from Napa, but most glasses are in the $8 to $15 range and if you happen to be there for happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day), the prices are even lower.

The wide selection means that there’s bound to be something to please any palate and thanks to master sommelier Coly Den Haan, each wine also has a short set of helpful tasting notes that are both exceptionally accurate and clever to help with your decision.

But what if that’s not enough? Luckily, servers at the Must are knowledgeable about the wines, so don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. When I went for happy hour, my waiter suggested I try the Reserva L.A. Cetto ($13) early in the evening, but the Mexican wine’s tasting notes (tar and leather) scared me off. Luckily, my dinner date ordered it instead, and it turned out to be pleasantly smoky with a fruity body. I opted for a white sangria ($5 during happy hour, $7 otherwise) – a well-balanced concoction of viognier, chardonnay and Port mixed with peaches that was perfectly sweet. Be sure to eat the peaches at the end; they are simply amazing.

Speaking of amazing, be sure not to pass up on the food. You can get a bowl of Elbow Mac & Cheese with (or without) bacon ($5, or $7 off the regular menu) that comes in a bowl that looks like it might make for a good appetizer, but is so rich that it’s a real challenge to eat it all. And believe me, it’s a challenge you want to take, because the sauce is lightly cheesy, a little bacon-y, full of flavor and all delicious.

My companion tried the Downtown Panini ($12) – grilled chicken, St. Andre Brie, field greens and green olive tapenade, which came out from the kitchen warm, brie oozing out with each bite. While I thought certain pieces of the field greens overpowered the rest of the sandwich, each component was well prepared, making each bite an adventure in culinary delight. Add on some Truffle Fries ($2) for a bit of extravagance without the price tag.

But all of that was nothing compared to dessert. If you’ve spent any time on the East Coast, you know what a fluffernutter is. But you’ve never had a fluffernutter until you’ve eaten a Fluffernutter from the Must ($10). Seriously, imagine the decadence of almond and peanut butter, with marshmallow fluff and bananas grilled between two slices of thick, sweet brioche. Now, add some dark chocolate ganache to dip it all in. You’re allowed to start drooling now. This salty/sweet dessert is so large it’s a meal unto itself, so either share it with a friend (or two … or three) or come hungry. Because if there’s one thing you need to order off the menu, it’s this.

So whether you’re a budding oenophile, an expert sommelier looking for something new or just want some really good food, you must come down to the Must.



For more information, call (213) 627-1162 or visit themustbar.com.