What have I been saying about New York? There’s always always something to do, and luckily always someone to do it with. It’s also, if you recall, still birthday season and this past weekend was a whirlwind of activity. Friday night I went dancing in the West Village with JBru to let out some of the week’s stress. It turned out to be a fantastic night, as planned! We ran into a football team having a birthday party for one of their team members, and made some new friends (I even got a date out of it – more about that next week).
Saturday afternoon I woke up just in time to make it to Pony Bar in Hell’s Kitchen for D’s afternoon birthday party. After a few hours of imbibing the various beers Pony Bar offers and a quick costume change, I headed to the Upper West Side for A’s intimate birthday dinner at Calle Ocho. Such an incredible atmosphere could only be followed by A’s party at Inc Lounge, at the Time Hotel. Whew! That’s a lot to pack into a weekend, yeah? But let me assure you, it was so worth it. Let me break it down for you:
Pony Bar, on 45th Street and 10th Avenue, is small – but by no means dive. Rustic, rugged and all-American themed, the decor includes keg barrels and a canoe on the ceiling. The special feature of Pony Bar is its extensive and seemingly inexhaustible list of beer – all crafted and brewed in the US! They have a tally sheet that counts up to 100. The point of the sheet is to try every beer they offer – a full sheet without duplicates yields the lucky drinker not only the fantastic experience of exposure to the widest range of beers possible, but a Pony Bar shirt! And what’s not to love about a Pony Bar t-shirt? I was only there a few hours, but I can personally recommend the Pumpkinhead by Shipyard Brewery, the Atom Smasher by Two Brothers Brewery, and the Eco Cider by…a brewery whose name I’ve forgotten (oops). Each pint glass of beer will cost you $4 during happy hour, or $5 during regular hours. Either way, it’s a great deal, and a great way to become an American beer connoisseur. What better way to expand your palate than in the laid back environment of Pony Bar with co-workers or friends?
Next on the list was dinner at Calle Ocho on Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets. Specializing in a cuisine that artfully fuses South American with Cuban and Spanish culture, Calle Ocho brings the samba/salsa to the table on a beautifully arranged platter. Also, the sangria is absolutely incredible! I usually reserve sangria for summertime, but this was such a refreshing throwback to the warmer months, and of course a fantastic compliment to the cuisine. Upon first entering Calle Ocho, it appears to be a cute but chic bar setting with an intimate dining area just up the steps in the back. Venture a little farther back, however, and that hallway in the back opens up into a huge dining space that, with the decor and lighting as it is, conjures the ambiance of a street side restaurant in Havana.
The food was, as expected, so rich in the best way possible. We ordered a sampler appetizer platter for the table to share, which consisted of yuca fries, sweet plantains (yum!) and of course black beans and rice. For my entree I settled on an item called the Gaucho – the description read: hangar steak, something something, gnocchi. Naturally I thought, well, I love steak and I love love gnocchi so this is a natural choice – the “something something” I skimmed over, however, turned out to be a delicious piece of pork, and 2 different kinds of sausage! So much for going vegan (a declaration I’d made in the mirror the previous night). Other entree choices at our table were grilled tilapia, seafood paella, and a dense but delicious-looking chicken with vegetables and rice. Everything was so beautifully displayed, we almost didn’t want to eat it! But we did, and it was delectable.
After dinner we cabbed it back to midtown to Inc Lounge at the Time Hotel, on W 49th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway. Dim lighting created a high-end lounge ambiance – perfect for A’s party. With a guest list and a slammin’ DJ, she really went all out with this one. And what a fabulous way to cap off the weekend!