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Boston’s Chilly November Is Looking up With Lots of Cozy Wine Bar Updates

A new wine bar next to Whaling in Oklahoma, an extra weekly wine bar service at Tasting Counter, and more news

A restaurant interior features a sleek bar, white and light wood accents, shelves of wine, and small planters of herbs.
Tasting Counter in Somerville, now open on Mondays for its wine bar service
John Skibbee

As the days get colder, a very particular instinct increases: the urge to curl up with a glass of wine, ideally inside an intimate bar, tucked away from the world, probably snacking on a bit of comforting food. It’s perhaps no coincidence, then, that this chilly week — with snow potentially in the forecast — is full of wine bar-related news.

Here’s the rundown on several Boston-area wine bar updates.

A Newcomer in the South End

Tim Maslow’s Whaling in Oklahoma (647 Tremont St., Boston) opened a little over a year ago in the longtime adjoined Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel spaces, mostly using the latter space for overflow seating. Starting tonight, it’s getting its own identity: Le Canular, a wine bar with a compact snack menu.

The menu and decor will evolve a bit as things get up and running at Le Canular, but ultimately there will be a variety of wines (each $13) and about a dozen snacks, such as oysters, cheese plates, maybe a burger, and more. Le Canular is open from 6 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday, with free snacks in celebration of the opening on November 6 and 7.

A Bubbly, Hammy Monday Lunch Deal

Cozy Somerville gem Rebel Rebel, a wine bar located at Bow Market (1 Bow Market Wy., Union Square), is now open during lunchtime part of the week, opening at noon Thursday through Monday for some midday funky wines. And that’s not all: On Mondays, hungry drinkers can get a ham and butter sandwich on a baguette with a side of chips and “a glass of fizz” for $15. (As is the case with all of Bow Market’s drinking establishments, customers can also bring in food from any of the market’s vendors.)

And there’s more on the Rebel Rebel front: As reported a few weeks ago, the Rebel Rebel and Field & Vine teams will join forces to open Dear Annie, a pescatarian natural wine bar, near Cambridge’s Porter Square next year. The Dear Annie team is currently running a Gofundme campaign to help cover some of the soft costs of the project, such as legal and architectural fees.

More Hours to Try Tasting Counter’s Wine Bar

A meal at Tasting Counter in Somerville (14 Tyler St.) is one of the Boston area’s most splurge-worthy fine-dining endeavors, many courses of beautifully plated food emphasizing high-end techniques and local, seasonal ingredients. While the tasting menu pricing falls in a special occasion price range for most, there are times when diners can get a more affordable, a la carte taste of Tasting Counter’s magic during its mostly-no-reservations, more casual wine bar hours. (There is a reservable tasting menu option during wine bar hours — a $65 three-course meal with wine pairings, or $35 without wine — but it’s first come, first served for those who prefer a la carte.)

Tuesday nights at Tasting Counter are all about the wine bar — it runs from 4 p.m. to midnight — while on Wednesday through Saturday, it’s only late at night, from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. But starting on November 11, Monday joins in on the same schedule as Tuesday, adding eight more hours of wine bar per week.

A Sad Closure, but Not the End

The saga of unique Cambridge wine bar Upperwest (1 Cedar St.) is a long one, starting back in early 2014 with a Massachusetts Avenue location that never came to pass in the face of opposition — and some sketchy petition shenanigans — from a would-be competitor nearby. Upperwest finally opened in late 2016 in a decidedly quirky space, the dim, wood-paneled basement of a veterans club. The unusual ambiance gave it a truly special lost-in-time vibe, and it was at its best when it was able to run a small but excellent menu of cheese, charcuterie, a single daily pasta special, and a few other items, alongside an affordable wine list.

But for the past year, owners Kim Courtney and Xavier Dietrich had to shrink the menu and staff while spending most of their energy battling Cambridge in a bizarre and frustrating tale that includes candles, corruption, the ACLU, liquor licensing, and so much more. (This Cambridge Day article — one of many from the publication charting the story — is a good starting point; peruse Cambridge Day’s Upperwest search archives for lots more.)

All that aside, Upperwest is now closed as the building that housed it is being sold. Courtney and Dietrich intend to reopen at a yet-to-be-announced location (ideally in the same area) and on a yet-to-be-announced timeline; keep an eye on social media for updates (or sign up for the Upperwest mailing list). Here’s hoping that Upperwest’s next chapter involves another odd yet perfect space, more pasta, and a lot less interference from the city.


1 Cedar St, Cambridge, MA 02140 (617) 714-5734 Visit Website

Bow Market

1 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 Visit Website

Tasting Counter

14 Tyler Street, , MA 02143 (617) 299-6362 Visit Website

Rebel Rebel

1 Bow Market Way, , MA 02143 (617) 721-7773 Visit Website

Whaling in Oklahoma

647 Tremont Street, , MA 02118 (617) 266-4600 Visit Website