Cantinas, French wine bars, pubs, and sake bars are all as common as taxi cabs and tourists in Manhattan. But tucked away in Alphabet City on Avenue C near 7th Street is perhaps New York’s only heuriger.
Yes, a heuriger. Edi & the Wolf — the creation of chef-owners Eduard (Edi) Frauneder and Wolfgang (the Wolf) Ban — emulates the relaxed and convivial Austrian neighborhood wine taverns popular in the expats’ homeland.
A heuriger “should be cozy and homey. It’s basically like coming home or visiting somebody’s house,” says Frauneder, who also owns Midtown’s high-end Seäsonal with Ban.
And so the duo, with the help of set designer Philipp Haemmerle, created their version of a heuriger on the site of a former pizza parlor. But when Frauneder says “cozy and homey,” he’s not talking about Austrian lace curtains and cuckoo clocks.
Instead, the 65-seat restaurant is bursting at its seams with eccentrically fun details — from intriguing reclaimed materials to quirky antiques. “The places in Vienna look like this,” Frauneder says. “They have been around for a very long time.
“There is so much energy and history in old things.”
Guests step directly into the inviting main dining room of this often bustling 15-month-old eatery. Here, the ceiling is covered in old distressed red and white barn wood. (Red and white, Frauneder notes, are the Austrian flag’s colors.) And light peeks through the ceiling planks, casting a warm and ethereal glow over the space.
Comfy tufted banquettes, upholstered in broken cotton twill, line the room’s exposed brick walls and hark back to a time when linen potato sacks were used as commercial fabric lining, Frauneder says.
Antique iron-based tables are topped with rustic wood and sit atop the eatery’s natural slate floor. They’re combined with the banquettes as well with as a mix of simple wood folding chairs and archetypal Gebrüder Thonet café chairs. The bentwood Thonet seats “are classic coffee house chairs,” Frauneder says. “They remind me of Vienna.”
Reclaimed 1918 factory lights were welded together with old gas pipes and fashioned into an elegant fixture that hangs above the communal dining table at the room’s center. Antique gooseneck wall sconces provide additional soft lighting.
A quirky assortment of odds and ends serves as decorative embellishment: a horseshoe nailed to the front door for good luck; Victorian-era military boots that double as flower pots and vases; dramatic zebra-striped pheasant feathers; a blood (yes, blood) painting by controversial Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch; and a series of old lightning rods that protrude from the wood ceiling.
The rods “collect good energy from the room,” Frauneder says. “We all believe in energy.”
Frauneder likes to roll open the restaurant’s giant garage door front at the slightest hint of good weather. And he’s named the spot right next to that door “the chef’s table” because “it’s the best table in the summer.” To denote its special stature, a jaunty old black top hat — which Frauneder calls “the chef’s hat ”— was placed over the sconce above the table.
A variety of religious articles and artifacts were also used to decorate the space.“It’s an homage to the [importance of] Catholicism in that part of Europe,” Frauneder says.
Collection plates and crosses appear around the dining room, and there’s even a confessional bench in one of the restrooms.
The bar area at the rear of the main dining room features wood repurposed from old church benches, cathedral candelabras, and a showpiece light fixture crafted from an old 40-foot church bell rope. Festooned with lights and looped numerous times, the rope forms a massive chandelier. The fixture hangs over the distressed copper-topped bar where guests sit on old factory stools and sip cold glasses of Grüner Veltliner and other Austrian wines.
Down the hall and past the kitchen, there’s a transporting back garden room. The enclosed garden is another ode to Austria’s wine taverns, which often are connected to vineyards.
Vineyards are “an intrinsic feature of a heuriger. You’d sit outside at rustic tables and chairs and drink wine.”
Like the main room, the garden is filled with whimsical details: an old distressed door, more greenery-filled boots, and 12 square stools which are hung upside down (as play on the Last Supper, Frauneder says) and serve as plant holders. Rustic wood slat tables are paired with sage green metal garden stools and chairs.
The intimate space also bursts with plants and vegetation, including Spanish moss and wild vines.
Says Frauneder: “It make you feel as if you are sitting in the vineyard.”
Edi & the Wolf
102 Avenue C
New York, New York 10009