Whether you’re waiting for a game, a train, or the end of the workweek, these bright lights of Midtown west make the food-and-drink desert around Madison Square Garden a little more bearable. From pig’s trotters, to gorilla-suited waiters, to an honest beer – it’s all just a few blocks away. By Chris Kelly.
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The Breslin Bar and Dining Room
If the butcher-papered tables and stag-headed walls don’t clue you in, the Breslin focuses on meat, in quality and quantity. This Michelin-starred British gastropub specializes the obscurer quadrants of pig, under a snout-to-tail cooking ethos previously honed at Greenwich Village’s Spotted Pig. Fat, crispy pork trotters for two share menu space with the likes of head cheese, terrine boards, and blood sausage with fried duck’s eggs and tarragon cream. A full bar and excellent wine list complete the package.
132 West 31st Street
New York, NY
This new, upscale gastropub pleases sports fans and foodies alike. Its proximity to the Garden, along with walls lined with flat screen televisions, make the dining destination a sports bar. But as Penn 6’s manager recently told the Wall Street Journal, “you can still have a nice, sophisticated meal with oysters and Champagne.” The ambiance and stepped-up menu (Duck Lyonnaise, anyone?) take the atmosphere up a notch.
Co. has been lauded as one of NYC’s top pizzerias, no mean feat for a designer pizzeria with communal tables, a dandy amongst hard-knuckled cousins like Grimaldi’s. Baker/owner Jim Lahey focuses on thin-crusted, Neapolitan style pizza topped with iconoclastic, borderline experimental toppings like quail egg, radicchio, and brussel sprouts. This adventurousness, along with a fastidious devotion to fresh, toothsome breads, sets Co. apart from the pack.
Blarney Rock Pub
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This old-school Irish bar still has the requisite pinch of grit lacking in so many of its midtown neighbors. The Blarney Rock has grounded 33rd street from 1969 on, with the accumulated sports memorabilia to prove it. The crowd is largely blue collar – New York Magazine notes that “the Blarney Rock is not the place to discuss your plans to build or renovate with nonunion labor”, and construction workers, elevator repairmen, and MTA employees still rub shoulders with commuters and, often as not, hordes of Rangers or Knicks fans yelling at the bar’s 14 TVs. In the morning, a full Irish breakfast completes the barfly cycle of life.
Go! Go! Curry
With this Japanese curry shack, it’s hard to decide which quirk to focus on first – the cartoon-bedecked walls, occasional staff member in a gorilla suit, or almost kabbalistic obsession with the number five (Go means five in Japanese). Originally named for Hideki Matsui’s number, the restaurant still ends its phone number with all fives and opens and closes at five minutes to the hour. In between, they serve up white rice and deep-fried toppings like pork katsu, all doused with the star attraction – the curry sauce, a thick, brown, slightly sweet gloop that looks fairly suspect but tends to inspire fanatical devotion among the clientele.
Tír Na Nóg
Named for the Gaelic land of eternal youth, this genteel Irish pub offers a cozy, casual atmosphere amidst lace-curtain relics and architectural bric-a-brac salvaged from churches and castles of the old country. Huge picture windows open onto the church-pipe-organ turned bar and illuminate a civil place to enjoy a pint or whiskey. The Celtic-influenced American pub food offers excellent seafood dishes, as well as a memorable shepherd’s pie.
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Chris Kelly is a freelance writer from Long Island.