Humble doesn't look or act much like your garden variety wine bar. Instead of dark and woodsy, with the requisite pockmarked wood floors and crumbling brick walls, guests here are treated to a contemporary space with baby smooth concrete, yards of glass and an ocean of white subway tile. A modern tin ceiling caps off the room, while an open-mouthed pizza oven breathes fire from its prominent perch.
Guests also are treated, on busy nights, to a cacophonous din that all but compels raised voices. Thanks to all that concrete, glass and tile, Humble is an acoustical nightmare, with sound levels approaching mind-numbing. But not for long, says owner Dan Deagan, who has been working to improve the situation since first discovering it.
"When we first opened, the noise was so loud it hurt your ears," he admits. Thanks to the installation of some sound dampening panels, and the impending arrival of thick drapes to cover the two glass garage doors, Humble no longer will require earmuffs. "It's never going to be a quiet and quaint wine bar. But it will be a lot quieter than it is now."
That's great news because Humble is lovable in just about every other way. Sit at the bar on a chilly fall night and it's like dining next to a cozy fireplace. Not only does the pizza oven throw off steady, gentle heat, but watching the front-and-center pizza chefs do their thing is a heck of a lot more entertaining than CNN. If you happened to hit Humble this summer then you likely enjoyed fully raised garage doors, which create a breezy inside-meets-outside vibe.
Humble is a wine bar, first and foremost, and they back that up with a long and diverse list. There are 26 wines available by the glass, six of which come from the tap, plus gobs more by the bottle. We ordered two draft reds, a California cabernet ($10) and a malbec ($8) from Argentina, both of which arrived full of life and at perfect temp. Try as he might to limit the craft beer selection to just four drafts and handful of large format bottles, Deagan allowed the beer selection to creep into the 30-option range.
While limited by design, the menu at Humble covers way more ground than your basic finger-friendly fare. For starters there are those pizzas, 10 different varieties of thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pie that get blasted in the 750-degree stone oven. Given the quality of the crust and the skill of the maker, it's a shame those pies come shellacked with cheese. Even the Margherita ($12), the archetypal model of restraint, arrives with a thick mantle of melted cheese – and not the fresh mozz variety. Other pies feature sausage, shrimp and chicken pesto.
Humble does a bang-up job with its charcuterie and cheese plates. Guests can build their own board from a list of 10 meats and 10 cheeses, which are paired with warm bread, grainy flatbreads, nuts, honey and fig jam. Meats like Serrano ham, domestic and imported prosciutto, and air-dried beef bresaola are sliced whisper thin and heaped into fat mounds. American and imported cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses are served in equally agreeable portions. Meat and cheese items are $5 each or three for $14.
Other wine-friendly snacks include cold antipasti like goat cheese-stuffed Peppadew peppers ($6), mixed olives with orange and fennel ($6), and balsamic-marinated mushrooms ($6). A pair of well-trimmed artichoke hearts ($10) are stuffed with sundried tomato-enriched goat cheese and roasted, leaving the exterior dark and crisp and the interior soft and creamy. Included on the plate is a bright Greek-style salad of cubed cukes and tomatoes. The pancetta-wrapped shrimp ($12) had all the makings of a winning dish, but it was on the dry side, with no real sauce to perk things up.
Humble might be the only wine bar in town with a pastry chef. Emma Scheer, who pulls double duty here and down the block at Deagan's, gives diners a reason to pop in for nightcap and dessert thanks to items like the Chocolate Tower ($7), a stack of chocolate cake, peanut butter ice cream, caramelized bananas and peanut butter crunch.
Despite pleas from many to add entrees to the menu, Deagan says that just won't happen. For starters, it's a wine bar. And the only oven in the joint is too busy cranking out pizzas to make room for a chicken.
"We're going to stick with what we're doing and doing well," adds the owner.