132 West 31st Street
New York, NY 10001
The oldest phone number in New York is, they say, the Hotel Pennsylvania's PE6-5000 or PEnnsylvania 6-5000, like the big band tune that you're bound to have heard at least a thousand times in the late 90s unless you were living under a rock, dead, or buried in a womb somewhere. If you were to blend a prewar-era restaurant with a sports bar, you'd come up with the phone number's namesake, Pennsylvania 6.
Bright red leather, dark woods, and a ceiling so high you could successfully lob tennis balls compliment the upscale menu and cocktail list. The dozen flat screen televisions (including one over the urinals) do their damndest to ruin the mood and shit all over the effort that went into the place, but Speeds and I were able to get beyond this and ignore the bridge and tunnel suits that swamp the place. Pennsylvania 6 is very much the type of restaurant that you might take a business associate or a prospective client to. Fauxcializing with people you're not particularly close to means that having a game on can give you something to talk about other than work. So, while I understand having all of the TVs, I'd still prefer them gone. With such energy going into recreating the kind of 1930s atmosphere you can imagine seeing the Thin Man eating at, flooding the place with NCAA stats is a disappointment. But I've beaten this horse, so let's move on. Pennsylvania 6 is lively. Loud. Very loud. Not scream across the table loud, but it's far from quiet, and not from blasting music either. Unlike trendy spots like Stanton Social that feel obliged to crank their iPod playlist at full volume and drown out all possible conversation, the volume at Pennsylvania 6 is nothing but conversation. It was a little empty when we arrived at 6. It was anything but empty when we left.
The staff that Speeds and I interacted with were all super friendly and super attentive and we never felt rushed in spite of having spent somewhere near four hours nursing drinks and eating slowly. Every slowly. Having a raw bar allows you to take time with your meal. Though at three to five dollars per, there's certainly a meter running at the table. Pennsylvania 6 has a $1 oyster happy hour on weekdays and you'd do yourself a great service by taking advantage of it. Of course, we ordered Oysters. Speeds, with her small and easily filled tummy, skipped any further pre-dinner chow, but I saw something on the menu and needed to give it a go. Roasted Bone Marrow with gremolata (a parsley pesto). My most recent ex and I tried roasting bone marrow one night and it didn't go so well and we wound up with a tasteless plate of grease. Pennsylvania 6 did a far better job. It was excellent. My one complaint was that you get virtually no marrow. In the picture, it looks like there's a lot on the plate, but in reality, it was maybe two and a half bites. There wasn't enough to smear on the three crostini you see. Still, it was good and even Speeds, who was mildly revolted at the thought of eating it, didn't think it was too bad.
Thus far, we'd enjoyed some light, small plates and some decent cocktails. I was pleasantly surprised. I feared that Pennsylvania 6 would be a crowded, douchey, overpriced sports bar, but it was in fact proving itself to be an actual restaurant that merely had an unfortunate ESPN fetish. I said a small prayer that the entrees wouldn't prove this all wrong and lo and behold, they did not. Speeds ordered the Monkfish Osso Bucco. Monkfish is a dense, meaty, not oily fish. It's the kind of fish you might get at a steakhouse, if you follow me. The monkfish was served over a bed of mushroom, squash, and asparagus and I sincerely recommend it. You will like this entree. I chose the Grilled Skirt Steak with yucca fries, scallions, and caramelized onion. Like most skirt steaks that haven been beaten with a hammer for a week straight, it was a bit tough. Speeds, while liking the taste, was disappointed in the toughness. Personally, I find that the trick is the way you cut it. Thin and with the grain and I've had far, far tougher. So, since it wasn't like trying to chew through a Goodyear radial, I'm going to recommend it.
For the first time in living memory, Speeds and I ordered dessert without also ordering coffee. I silently questioned whether I was feeling well... then I sipped my beer and everything was okay again. We decided to split a Drunken Donuts and a S'mores. Desserts were the weakest part of dinner. The drunken donuts are a handful of large cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes filled with a sort of cheesy cream and accompanied by two dipping glazes. One was dulce de leche, which was good, and something else, which wasn't. The filling was weird and initially I just thought that the doughnut holes weren't cooked properly. Neither of us cared much for them. The s'mores wasn't much of an improvement. The dessert is a very dense chocolate cake (it's almost like eating a candy bar) with a graham cracker bottom topped by marshmallows and a small ball of vanilla ice cream. Our server then doused the cake with 151 rum and lit 'er up. If you like charred marshmallow and heavy bittersweet chocolate, then please go ahead and get this. If you're like me, you'll order an apple pie or something next time.
Anyway, desserts aside, Speeds and I had a thoroughly great time at Pennsylvania 6 and are sure to return. They're a bit pricey though. Six oysters, an appetizer, two entrees, two desserts, two beers, three cocktails, tax and tip totaled $230. Come early because they fill up by 8.
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