Rest assured: There was nary an NYU freshman in sight at Vintage Irving, a new restaurant helmed by restaurateur/hotelier Michael Sinensky, the man responsible for the East Village frat-boy hangout Village Pourhouse. Located around the corner from Irving Plaza, Vintage Irving is a homey yet sleek little spot with a seasonal, Mediterranean-influenced, small-plate-heavy menu. Get a bunch and share: Try the lobster bisque, which is topped with beer-battered shrimp ($12), the truffled chicken mini-meatballs ($8) or rice balls with asiago, parmesan and tomatillo marmalade ($6). Hungrier patrons would do well with the pan seared scallops ($14) or the homemade potato gnocchi with grilled asparagus, plum tomato, herbs and beurre blanc ($12). For the adventurous, chef Jason Bunin creates daily tasting menus (three-seven courses; $50-150 per person, which includes beer and wine pairings) and for the really adventurous, Vintage Irving hosts weekly tastings in their private dining room, overseen by guest chefs (Top Chef-er Sam Talbot recently stopped by, and they cost $150 per person). Since Sinsensky does know a thing or do about booze, the alcohol selection is impressive. The restaurant features a rotating cast of 40 craft beers, a comprehensive wine list and a wide variety of the official drink of 2008, absinthe. While VI suffers slightly from the fact that it's located smack in the middle of four-star-restaurant central, it's an unpretentious, solid option if you find yourself in Union Square.
118A E. 15th St.
Photo from eater.com