Now I’m no NASCAR sympathizer. In fact some rednecks may call me a hater. But regardless of my lack of affinity for cars noisily speeding in circles for hours on end, I can’t help but conjure auto racing when hearing the name of this joint. I feared the worst. But, alas, there were no pictures of old #3 on the walls or Danica Patrick hawking hot wings, but rather a tastefully designed, new brick-lined pub with little touches of class that made it a cut above as a bar, but casual enough to not be a place you would feel weird drinking beer in. We were there on the early side, so the people were sparse (despite it seeming like a remarkably good place for an after work meet up) and we were ushered back to the back room for dinner where we were joined by no one. The back room was kind of like that cute secretary that was always manning the office desk in high school whose top half completely belied what was below the deskline. Like as if some mad scientist Frankensteined some other woman’s lower half to this dainty flower’s torso. This wasn’t as big of a disaster as that, but the back room, in comparison to the lovely front of the bar, was claustrophobic and somewhat sterile and characterless in a West Elm sort of way. That didn’t bode well. But then the cool beer menu, especially with their list of local beers, brought back the love. The server also seemed very knowledgeable about their food, extremely psyched to be having us try it and we pretty much had her all to ourselves. And, I gotta say, I’m very rarely surprised by a restaurant, but because this place had all the earmarks of a mediocre dining experience (alcohol, and not food the seeming focus), I had low expectations. I started with Prince Edward Island Mussels with white wine, fennel and shallots. How could that be bad? It wasn’t–it was rockin’. And I followed that up with a glazed flank steak and tomatillos. Now the word “glazed” carries all sorts of iffy connotations, but in this case it stood for damn tasty. That shit was actually really good–cooked perfectly, sweet, salty and tomatoey in all the right places. There were a couple sides, fingerling potatoes and summer squash, that were total cast-offs, but they had made a believer out of me. Meanwhile I kept trying new beers and we all kept commenting on how delicious everything was, as if I wasn’t the only one shocked that this oddball Midtown gastropub could serve us good beers and decent food to boot. Well, if this is how NASCAR truly is, they now have a fan in me. [MF]
785 Ninth Ave.