By Lisa Loverro
Don’t be surprised if you think you have the wrong address when your taxi arrives at 146 Essex Street. The street level mock pawnshop adorned with vintage guitars and other musical nostalgia is merely a gimmicky entrance for the surprising opulence that awaits you beyond the storefront’s back door.
Beauty and Essex offers a nod to the past of its Lower East Side location; an area of New York City once widely known for its dive bars and speakeasy clubs with hidden doorways with password-protected entrances. But like it or not, the Lower East Side has emerged as a Mecca for the trendy bridge-and-tunnel crowd swarming to take a bite out of the Big Apple.
The design team of AvroKo has brought back to life this former Katz and Sons furniture storefront and revitalized it into a gigantic, eclectic restaurant/lounge/dance club (to the tune of 10,000 square feet). The 250-seat restaurant is a visual feast for the eyes enticing your senses with everything from peacock feathers to jewels - with a giant chandelier thrown in for good measure. The ceiling, a massive 20-foot oval skylight can’t help but take center stage as it beckoned me to constantly look up, leaving me with a feeling of playing tourist in my own city. The menu is as diverse as the décor. Roasted bone marrow, lobster tacos, fried oysters, and steak tartare were just a few of the plates that arrived at my table, all deliciously executed by Chef Chris Santos of Stanton Social fame.
The cocktail list is just as diverse and imaginative as the food. With a Prohibition type theme, you can pick your poison from Gin to Bourbon from a list of names including “The Woodsman, “The Pink Panther” and “Smooth Criminal.” Cocktails are a serious business here, almost as serious as the women trying to outdo each other.
Date night was in full force this Friday evening, along with small groups of 30-somethings all enjoying the tapas style dishes. Ladies, take note, there’s free champagne in the restroom for you. Sorry gentlemen, you’ll have to buy your own.
The music was pumping, but not too loud that I couldn’t hear my dining partner. We thoroughly enjoyed every last bite of our dinner, served by an attentive wait staff. Beauty and Essex has been opened since December 2010 and is still going strong in a neighborhood of New York City that offers a nice balance of old city grit and grime along with chic restaurants and cool lounges.
146 Essex Street
New York, NY 10002