Last Friday night, I landed at Abe & Arthur’s approximately one hour early—a first for me, seeing as I’m nearly always late for after-work engagements. But it seems that just as bad as being late for something in the nightlife world is being too damned early. An establishment needs some time to set up properly and hide the bodies, or whatever they’re always scrambling to do. So I left to walk around the Meatpacking District, but after seeing several undercover cops bust some junkies in front of Catherine Malandrino, I decided it was time that I settle into Abe & Arthur’s front bar to wait out the start of their first birthday celebration.
Though I was solo, as I usually like to roll, I was about to be breaking bread (or having cake) with Justin Rocket Silverman of Urban Daddy New York, the Shadow PR gals, Lizzie Brown from Quest magazine, the new Page Six lovely, Tara Palmeri, and several others. We were gathering for the first anniversary party for the first restaurant venture from the EMM Group, and more specifically, for Abe & Arthur’s new menu reveal and the most enormous cake —made by cakemaster Thiago Silva—I’ve seen outside of Ace of Cakes.
The new menu is basically the same as the old, but I wouldn’t have known. (Although I almost fell down the stairs of Abe & Arthur’s trying to hunt down a canape tray last year, I had never come close to experiencing the food.) The menu newcomers include a grilled octopus dish and a delectable grilled “Chairman’s Cut” pork chop. What’s interesting about the nightclub-turned-restaurant (it was once the home of Lotus) is that it still maintains the slickness of a late night boite while forgoing menu items of the same ilk. Instead, chef Franklin Becker focuses on comfort food of all sorts: steaks, sliders, arctic char, and cod, and sides like garlic mashed potatoes, truffled-herbed Parmesan fries, and hearty mac n’ cheese. To explain to you just how far they take the comfort aspect of the menu, the Irish Cereal Milk cocktail that Silverman bravely ordered (Jameson Irish whiskey, cinnamon toast crunch cereal milk, with real Cinnamon Toast Crunch floating at the top) is the stuff your 6-year-old self’s dreams were made of.
The atmosphere jibes with your prepubescent self, too. It’s glittering in design and grown-up in feeling, a combination that naturally attracts youth—young professionals and old pros toting youngish models. It’s one of those joints that inspires you to stay a little longer, to dress up for dinner, and to relish in the peculiar theater of evening entertainment. More importantly, it’s a restaurant that, while being upscale, remains unstuffy. In the few hours I was there, I witnessed a grown businesswoman hop up on her chair in a raucous gesture to her table. Perhaps Abe & Arthur’s still hosts the club ghosts of venues past. Or perhaps it was time for that table to head down to the actual club, SL, located within easy tripping distance just below the restaurant