Mon-Fri, 5:30pm-2am; Sat-Sun, 11am-3pm and 5:30pm-2am
A, B, C, D, E, F, M at W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.
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Like the Waverly Inn, McNally’s Minetta Tavern is being billed as a revival, not a first-run production. The original joint opened in the thirties, in a corner space on MacDougal Street, and flourished, over the years, as a bar, a red-sauce Italian joint, and a hangout for generations of scraggly Village pub crawlers from the Beat Poets to old Joe Gould. Now McNally has taken the place upscale and stationed a giant bouncer by the front door, but he’s wisely left most of the old saloon-era interior intact. There’s a refinished oak bar in the front of the room, but the original wood paneling behind it is decorated with stylish little silhouette cutouts from the thirties. There are new black-and-white checkered tiles on the floor, as well, and the banquettes have been covered in McNally’s trademark crimson leather. But a faded, smoke-stained fresco of the old Village still adorns the back room, and the walls of the joint are still plastered with original framed pictures of figures from the city’s vanished past, like Eva Marie Saint and the boxer Jimmy Braddock.
The real overhaul at the new Minetta Tavern is in the back of the house, where McNally has given his two first-class chefs from Balthazar, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, partner status, and put them in charge of the kitchen. The neo-speakeasy model, as practiced at places like the Waverly and the progenitor of the genre, Freemans, on the Lower East Side, has tended to focus more on ambience, and the peddling of retro cocktails, than on first-rate food. Thankfully, McNally and his two chefs have changed all that. As at the restaurants it seeks to imitate, the vibe at Minetta is buzzy, exclusive, and properly chaotic. But the menu is a compact, carefully edited compendium of practiced brasserie favorites (stuffed pig’s trotter, steak tartare, lobster salad) and hefty, old-fashioned tavern fare (marrow bones speckled with sea salt, two kinds of hamburgers, a $104 côte de boeuf for two), and, to the amazement of the hipsters at my table, almost everything on it tastes good.Featured In
Roasted marrow bones, pig’s trotter, Black Label burger or New York strip, chocolate soufflé.