Jeremy’s Ale House

What can I say about Jeremy’s Ale House? This bar was a regular stop during my old law school days, because my counselors-in-training and I could score 32oz beers in styrofoam cups for very cheap, on a pauper’s budget, all while having a blast near the picturesque South Street Seaport and Brooklyn Bridge locale of lower Manhattan.

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My wife and I were married on a yacht that used to sail from the Seaport too, and with a pair of my groomsmen having gone through law school hell with me, this was naturally where the wedding party landed after disembarking. In short, this place is associated with the most incredibly important parts of my life. As such, being invited here for a press dinner was really exciting for me and my wife, and we jumped at the opportunity.

This place is nothing short of iconic. It used to be located a bit closer to the bridge, but it has since moved. It hasn’t lost any of its charm and character, however, other than the awesome outdoor beer garden that it used to boast. The new spot has some elevated curbside seating near big windowed doors, which is cool in its own right.

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It still has the incredible collection of cut ties and bras hanging on the walls, ceiling, and over the bar, fabled to be swindled from alcohol-lubricated businessmen and women who wandered into the bar after a hard day of work on Wall Street or the Financial District in dire need of shedding their stuffy monkey suits with a carefree romp at the famed dive.

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Even my wife contributed an over-the-shoulder boulder holder to the collection:

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The walls are filled with everything from jocular anecdotes and silly images, to reflective and somber NYPD, FDNY and EMS tributes to fallen heroes of 9/11.

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Jeremy’s served as a safe house after 9/11 for people who were destined to still be in the area working cleanup. Jeremy kept the place open, and in that spirit of giving back to his community, he’s also throwing a fund raiser to help fight breast cancer at his other location, out in Freeport, Long Island.

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Jeremy himself is a really outgoing and inviting person. His warm and honest persona fills the room with a sense of familiarity and comfort.

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Much of his staff has been with him for several decades, like Milton, aka “Monstro,” who has worked behind the bar and ran the kitchen and staff for coming up on 30 years (Jeremy, seated: Monstro, right).

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Jeremy has been in the saloon game for nearly 45 years now, first opening his doors back in 1970! He reminisced to us about how the first bras graced the walls of the older locations via auction, with the money going to charity if the women felt awkward about taking the cash that was offered… but sometimes the pot would go up to nearly $200, and the girls would take it because in the 80s that was a lot of scratch for a bra! About a week’s worth of pay, for many. We also talked about how the neighborhood changed so much between then and now, and how NYC laws governing food establishments caused him to make changes or operate differently, depending on the mayor and what safety concerns they pushed in their agendas.

I was only acquainted with Jeremy’s from 2000 onward, just a third of the time it was open. And throughout those 15 years I really had no idea what was happening in the kitchen in terms of food. I never even gave food a second thought here, because, well, there were quart-sized beers!

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As it turns out, Jeremy’s serves up some pretty great pub food, and Jeremy himself is somewhat of a recipe innovator and amateur chef.

We first tried some of his lobster bisque, which currently is not on the menu. He does give it out to customers on occasion, but right now it is an off-menu hush-hush item.

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Jeremy spent years perfecting New England clam chowder recipes at home, spoiling his family in the process, who can now no longer eat the chowder at restaurants because the homemade version was so much better. The secret, Jeremy says, is in using heavy cream and half & half instead of milk, and a bit of sherry. You can see that a little shot of sherry is served alongside the chowder for mixing (or drinking, like I did).

The bisque here is made from a commercial lobster base and then enriched with some of Jeremy’s chowder methods. He adds pepper, creams and sherry (no starch for thickening), and then tops it with a generous portion of “lobster essence” (bits of lobster that are ground up and re-combined) and imitation lobster meat for substance. I have to say, it was pretty good for pub food!

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Next up was a side-by-side comparison of the dry batter seafood and the grilled seafood: Scallops, shrimp and calamari.

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Jeremy is partial to the dry batter preparation, because it seals in the natural juices and flavors of the seafood. The grill, on the other hand, gives it a fired-up taste and the seafood takes on some of the grill flavors. I’m more of a fan of that method.

Speaking of fresh seafood, if you order the shrimp cocktail here, you’re given a choice of whether you want it hot with drawn butter on the side, or chilled with cocktail sauce. The reason you’re given this choice: everything is prepared fresh, to order. When you want it chilled, the shrimp gets flash-cooked and then instantly chilled in an ice bath before it comes out to you. Pretty awesome, because the shrimp stay tasty and juicy. All too often I get shrimp cocktail that tastes like absolutely nothing, because it was cooked a month ago, frozen, and then thawed out prior to serving. The result is a rubbery, bland and flavorless piece of dog shit. Fuck that. Jeremy’s Ale House does it legit. And it is also worth noting that Jeremy makes his own tartar sauce for the pub. He uses extra relish and a bit of ketchup in the preparation to cut the sour with a bit of sweet. Very nice.

The food tasting continued with the special half pound burger that comes topped with bacon, American cheese and tomato on a pretzel bun.

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The pretzel bun is fresh and supple. Really excellent. The bacon was thick and crisp, perfectly cooked. The cheese was melty and gooey. The only downside? My burger was a bit overcooked. But I have to say, for a dive bar, this burger is pretty freaking awesome – especially for just $10 (they offer smaller burgers for about $5 or $6 as well). Also, look at the mountain of fresh homemade potato chips that comes with the burger:

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While I was digging into this fucker, Jeremy called out for Monstro to bring us over one of the Jersey tomatoes that he uses both at home and at the bar for salads, burger toppings and also just for snacking. These were picked fresh from near his hometown in southern New Jersey (he grew up in NJ, but he is originally from England). They have a slightly thicker skin than most tomatoes, but that helps to seal in the juicy freshness and sweet qualities of the fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically fruit, not veggies). These particular tomatoes were light on seeds and that slimy goop in the center, which was great for me because I hate that garbage. Jeremy even sent us home with a bunch of fresh tomatoes.

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The next item to come out was the fried chicken finger sandwich. This is about six ounces of fried chicken on a pretzel bun with pickles and fried onions. Excellent!

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What a great bar sandwich this is: The chicken was tender, the breading was crisp, the pickles were of good quality and the onions were a great topper.

While we were on the subject of chicken, Jeremy explained to us how he has (and is currently working on) some options for people who are trying to be more health conscious. He had Monstro bring out a cooked patty of his chicken burger, which is made of one third leg and thigh meat, and two thirds breast meat. But it doesn’t break up or taste like ground chicken. It eats like a pounded-flat piece of thigh or breast meat. It is incredible. Here it is: six ounces of amazing chicken, grilled to perfection:

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This patty was by far my favorite item of the night. And we just had it plain! Usually, this gets served on a bun with toppings and a side of chips, like the other sandwiches – we were just trying out the patty on its own for shits and giggles. Actually, I was slicing up some of the Jersey tomatoes and eating them together, with a little bit of Jeremy’s incredibly spicy homemade hot sauce on top:

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That hot sauce is so fucking good. But be careful, because it will make your face numb! Simple too: smoked habanero, vinegar, garlic and salt. Generous as he is, Jeremy sent my wife and me home with a few containers of the sauce, after I suggested that he bottle it and sell it.

We were getting stuffed, but Jeremy wanted us to keep trying things. He and Monstro were discussing what else we could sample when my wife asked, “What is your favorite thing to eat?” They both answered, “The hero.”

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What you have there are two different subs. One is spicy, with sliced cherry peppers included. Both have salami, ham, cheese, lettuce and a nice vinegary sandwich dressing on top. The bread is fresh, crusty Italian bread – the only thing worthy of such a sandwich. Monstro hollows out a bit of the bread’s interior so that all the fillings can fit inside the sandwich without being too massive to bite down on. I’d say this was probably my second favorite item from the tasting.

What an awesome place. I’m really glad Jeremy reached out to me for this press meal, because up until now, I just looked at this place as a joint for big, cheap beers. A watering hole, a dive bar. Now I know its a great place to eat, too!

JEREMY’S ALE HOUSE
228 Front St.
New York, NY 10038

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