[Free Stuff by Wilfrid: January 25, 2016]
I can remember--just about--when Bleecker Street was a quaint enough downtown strip, not entirely swarming with tourists and NYU students. These days? Sure, there are some nice old stores like Faicco's, but as far as nightlife is concerned...
Not much more than a parade of anonymous sports bars, mediocre music venues, and inexpensive Indian restaurants. But you still need to go there from time to time, not least to catch shows at the estimable Poisson Rouge. So it's good to have a better bar in your back pocket.
The multi-room space is brick-lined, and yes it will get noisy. But this is a neighborhood place to keep in your back pocket. As a guest of the venue, I ate my way through much of the food on offer--and believe me, this is the kind of rib-sticking cooking which doesn't (not should it) lend itself to a tasting menu experience. I was filled.
Whiskey and beer flights are available, and staff thoughtfully chalk the names of the drinks on the nifty little tasting planks. The Chromatic Ale by New York's Twin Fork was my favorite here (and two out of the four beers were new to me, which is a decent average).
Dark for photos, but you'll see some crunchy stuff going on here. Then I'll give the run down.
Deep fried pickles--a ubiquitous bar snack, and these were as good as I've had, sweet under the brittle breadcrumbs. Onion rings, stacked about a foot high, were slightly less successful only because the beer batter flew everywhere when you bit in. Others at the table loved them, because of a noticeable bacon infusion. I did like the chicken wings, baked and fried, then grilled with blue cheese.
Where I could kick myself if not having a good enough photo of the deep-fried cheese curds, because this was easily the best attempt at the Wisconsin delicacy I've ever come across. I think the reason, apart from the deft frying in panko, is that the kitchen uses a better cheese--a white cheddar which at least doesn't squeak across your teeth. (True Cheeseheads will miss that effect, of course).
Things go best when the kitchen is doing classic bar food well; less so when reinventing it. I really didn't think layering stickily barbecued chicken over mac'n'cheese did either component of the dish many favors, but you can take the mac'n'cheese straight as well as with bacon or lobster (which both seem better ideas). Mahi mahi tacos were honest and fresh. It was because I took an extra share in a hefty Malt House Burger--genuinely medium rare, a chuck/brisket/short rib blend, with cheese, smoked hickory bacon and onion marmalade--that I struggled a little with the open-face beef sandwich, smothered in melted gruyère and topped with a sharp arugula salad. What I ate I liked. There were two kinds of fries on the table too: thick streak fries and regular skinny.
Did I mention the bucket of mussels? Garlic and herbs in the white wine sauce, but the significant garnish was chorizo. In fact, there was a rather unseemly battle to grab the mussels with the sausage component. So who needs desssert?
The classic crème brûlée was soothing, but I admit I backed away from the cheesecake. This was a gargantuan meal, but of course that's not how any sane person will be consuming this food. Pull up a bar-stool and you'll be pleased with the burger, steak sandwich, wings and mussels--or the cheese curds and fried pickle, if that's your kind of thing. Which means the Malt House is batting a good average for bar food, especially in this part of town.
Here's the website (interior photo above courtesy The Malt House).