For years there were very few options near MSG and Penn Station that didn’t either feel like you might get socked if you couldn’t name one member of the Rangers, or murdered for your shoes. Or you could imbibe at a group of faceless, rote Irish / sports bars that were basically depression in a glass. Dumb punny names and the inevitable plywood leprechaun standing outside holding the daily specials menu. You know the joints.
But along comes American Whiskey to make us feel not as awful about ourselves and our choices when killing time before the late train back to NJ. After all, it seems that this place actually tries. Tries with its menu. Tries with its double-decker-height ceilings and rustic gastropub decor. The place has a fucking chandelier, people! I’m not going to say it doesn’t feel a bit like an overly dressed sports bar, of course. Because you have to have 400 TVs if you’re going to service this MSG neighborhood. It’s probably a rule. Or a business necessity. It’s a shame, really, as the space could be more low-key and lean into the “American” in its name with its vaguely cowboy vibe. Giant flatscreens every two feet does dent that aesthetic just a bit.
The whole thing in its tons of exposed wood, animals heads and its professionally done logo (which resembles a brand, or the sign you might see outside a fancy Dallas ranch) does give this place a sheen that does trend a little corporate or chain-like. Again, it’s a very comfortable and chill place, but it doesn’t have that individual personality that so many grubbier NYC bars do. It’s as if the owner went to Chip and Joanna and asked them to design a bar. But make it look like a place people might want to actually watch a college football game and also spend seventeen bucks on a burger and the same on a cocktail. It helps that the bartender was incredibly friendly and personable. Granted, we were there late on a weeknight, so she was probably bored and was excited to have other humans to talk to. Regardless, she was inviting, the bar itself was warmer and way less sketchy than the generic drunk tanks in the ‘hood and it made for a pleasant drop-in when none was expected.