Magazine article The New Yorker

Minetta Tavern

Magazine article The New Yorker

Minetta Tavern

Article excerpt

Since 1937, this Village red-sauce relic had sat quietly at the end of Minetta Lane--that is, until recently, when the restaurateur Keith McNally (Odeon, Balthazar, Pastis) revamped the place, with the help of Balthazar chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr. The vibe now is less seedy watering hole, more claustrophobe-celeb. The clipboard-clutching assistant on the sidewalk serves as an ominous reminder that reservations are nearly impossible to obtain; the fortunate few might be granted admittance to drink at the bar and hope a table opens up.

The wait isn't much mitigated by the cacophonous crush at the bar, where courtly gentlemen serve complicated drinks that convey the modern-nostalgic speakeasy ethos: the Dodd Cocktail, a froth of Basil Hayden's bourbon, La Fee absinthe, peach bitters, lemon, and egg white, is more fun to read about than to drink. But once you land a table, good things start to happen. On the bistro-style menu, the rightful star is the much talked about $26 Black Label burger, a custom blend of dry-aged rib eye, skirt steak, and brisket from the Pat La Frieda meat company, which is seared, bathed in clarified butter, and topped with caramelized onions--cheese is not recommended--on a Balthazar Bakery bun. …

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