“Try the steak tartare. It’s off the menu. Louis’ll make it for you.”
-Gordon Gekko, Wall Street
The 21 Club is a classy-ass NYC institution. Men need to wear jackets, and the sharp dress code policy is definitely enforced, because my wife overheard the maitre d’ scolding some broad for wearing jeans at the bar.
The ceiling is lined with miniature airplanes, sports equipment, trucks and all sorts of shit that, apparently, wealthy or famous diners left as a token of their affection for the restaurant. Some items are probably worth a pretty penny for memorabilia purposes.
We came for restaurant week. My wife ordered off the restaurant week lunch menu ($25, three courses), and I tried their pricey burger ($36). I will say this: the place is all about the atmosphere. You go here to impress. The food, on the other hand, is just average.
Take a look at the bread basket though. THIS was impressive. The olive bread sticks were amazing.
My burger was a little too highly stacked for my liking, and a little too thick. But the patty was delicious, and there was ample cheese on it. The house made pickles were a perfect half sour, and the grilled red onion didn’t leave me dying of thirst for hours afterward: they were mellowed. The tomato was sliced too thick.
Was it worth $36? Absolutely not. It was good, but gimme a fucking break. I’d much rather spend half that at Shake Shack and be able to eat it without wondering if my suit jacket sleeves are dangling into the goddamn ketchup. The ketchup, by the way, was fucking great. It had a nice horseradish and spiced kick to it. Legit.
Fries were average. I enjoyed them, but they are not on par with some of the other burger places serving up WAY better fries for under $5 per order. Essentially these were standard diner fries but with the proper crisp on them.
My wife’s meal started with a very tangy and citrusy salmon and crab tartare, with a little bit of avocado at the bottom and some greens on top. I liked it, but I could see why my wife thought the lime/citrus was a little too aggressive. Tone that shit down a few notches and we’re good to go.
Her main course was a roasted chicken. This was pretty good, though a bit small. The thickest portions lacked some of the flavor of the edges, and the skin wasn’t quite crisp enough for my liking.
She finished off with a hazelnut and cookie ice cream sundae with caramel. This was pretty good. Nice and simple – difficult to fuck up.
21 Club is a great place to do once in a blue moon for the right reasons: for the swanky atmosphere with company that likes to be in an impressive place. It’s a NYC institution, so we must respect that at least. But don’t expect to have the best meal of your life in here just because you may be in the company of billionaires.
21 W. 52nd St.
New York, NY 10019