1590 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10028
(212) 203-2571

The Upper East Side is one of the forgotten parts of Manhattan. This is not often without good cause. After all, anywhere that Ann Coulter lives is automatically going to lose a few respect points. Other than that, it's pretty much just expensive nail salons and stay at home trophy wives pushing baby carriages. There's very little reason to actually go to the Upper East Side. But there does exist a diamond in this rough that isn't on the fingers of said trophy wives. It's the Penrose, a very downtown bar/gastropub that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I had initially asked Emma if we wanted to find a place to blog about in East Harlem, where she recently moved. "Next time," she said. "This time, Penrose. Let's check it off your list." On my phone I have a list of well over a hundred restaurants. So we traveled south, miraculously found parking, and walked inside. Immediately I was both delighted and dismayed. The interior is dimly lit and lively. The exposed brick, candles, wood beamed ceiling, and the smell of cocktails was exactly what I wanted. The live music wasn't. I like jazz. I love jazz. I just didn't want the guys to play jazz right in the restaurant while we were having dinner. It was all but impossible to talk except between sets. I yelled "I'm sorry" a half dozen times across the table but I don't think she heard me.

While Penrose has a decent wine and beer selection, we started with two cocktails because, well, who needs a reason to have a cocktail? Mine was the bourbon and grapefruit heavy Brunswick, named, I will guess for the owners undying love of bowling. I liked it's tangy, bittersweet, earthiness. Emma did not. She opted for the lemony, basily, vodka-based Itty Bitty Pretty, which makes sense since she's five-two. Thank the gods she liked this drink because if she didn't, getting her to go to the dozens of speakeasies I have yet to try would be all but impossible.

We started with the Warm Artichoke, Kale, and Ricotta Dip, served with toasted sourdough bread. This was delicious Velvetty smooth, not bitter in the slightest. Emma, who in her words hates kale, did not hate this kale. We did run low on bread though.

Emma's entree, the Mussels with Toast, mussels steamed in an herbal beer broth with almonds, was the weak point of the meal. For starters, the mussels were very small. This meant that the meat was somewhat scant, and when you went to spoon the sauce up in the shell, you didn't get a whole helluva lot. But more than that, the mussel meat was stringy and tough, and finally, beer as a broth (at least whavever specific beer the chef used) does not compare to wine. I ordered The Penrose Burger, Pat LaFrieda beef, with Irish cheddar and applewood bacon. It was fantastic. One of the best burgers I've had this year. Honestly, if I get a chance to return, I'd be hard pressed to try something different just because this was so good. I ordered a side of French Fries because the burger doesn't come with anything but the burger and fixin's and they were, y'know, fries. Half of them got malt vinegar, half got ketchup. Half of them were eaten by me, half were eaten by Emma. You can also get a side of McClure's pickles, which I did not, but which I can attest are fantastic in a bloody Mary. 

Two cocktails, a shared appetizer, and two entrees came to $72 before tax and tip. Nothing here is very expensive, really. Indeed, I don't recall a single item on the menu that broke $20. Cocktails were $12 and these days, that's not bad. The Penrose is the kind of place that I'd be a regular at I could walk there from my house. The bar area in the front is lively, fun, and seems to be populated exclusively by attractive people in their low 30s. The food is, mussels aside, very good, and it's not expensive. I give Penrose a thumbs up.

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