Feedback
Dining Out 1 minute 18 September 2017

A South African Wine Bar in the Heart of Manhattan

Kaia wine bar, a South African mainstay in Manhattan's Upper East Side neighborhood, is a warm and welcome respite off the beaten path.

NYC wine

It’s true what they say—there’s no place like home. Suzaan Hauptfleish, a white Afrikaans girl from the Free State province in South Africa, brought that mantra with her when she moved to New York City over a decade ago. Working in the hospitality industry, Hauptfleish climbed through the ranks to become the events director at La Grenouille and then at the high-end Italian spot Sfoglia on the Upper East Side. Feeling a bit of nostalgia (and a bit homesick), Hauptfleish opened Kaia on Third Avenue in 2011. Kaia, which means "home," is named for a phonetic Zulu version for Hauptfleish’s local Sothos dialect and has been a welcome mainstay in the neighborhood ever since.

Keeping true to her roots, all 44 wines on the list hail from South Africa, with 42 of those being by-the-glass options. The remaining two fall under Suz’s Private Collection—the 2015 Alheit Vineyards Hemlelrand Vine Garden and the 2000 Groote Post Darling—with both running at $85. A notable selection of Bourbon, Brandy and Whisky also come from South Africa, and include Ladismith, Bains and KWV XO.

Chef Billy Dineen's dishes are chock-full of local ingredients and also celebrate his South African heritage. (Yes, he too is a native!) The menu changes seasonally and includes light dishes like lemons stuffed with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, green olives and caper berries, and regional favorites, like The Gatsby, a Capetonian sandwich monstrosity where pulled chicken curry masala, pickles, peppadews and fries are enrobed in a Portuguese roll. All South African cured meats and beef jerky are made in house and can be enjoyed solo or atop creamy mac and cheese. The housemade bread comes with olive oil and a variety of spices including coriander and sesame for dipping—the recipe comes from Hauptfleish’s mother, Elize.

In a city that's bustling with wine bars striving to make names for themselves, Kaia has appeared to have already done so—it's proven itself a Michelin Guide Recommended restaurant since 2015. Turns out Hauptfleish isn't so far from home after all. 

Hero image courtesy of Kaia Wine Bar.
Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to get news and updates about the MICHELIN Guide
Subscribe
Follow the MICHELIN Guide on social media for updates and behind-the-scene information.