Still making it through that too-big pile of papers that accumulated through last year….and found more New York notes that I haven’t yet dealt with from my summer trip.
I can’t recall what the ultimate destination was for the evening, but for starters we gathered at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar in the West Village for pre-dinner snacks and sips. We managed to snag a couple of the last stools at the tiny, simple space (this New York Magazine item has a few photos).
Not so much a cocktail bar–as are other favorites such as Employees Only, Flatiron Lounge, and Pegu Club–wines figure a little more prominently here. And even then, with such a small sliver of Manhattan real estate, there’s not a lot of room for an exhaustive list. A selective, engaging one, to be sure. The breadth is still pretty admirable, from a refreshing $24 bottle of Vinho Verde to some California cabernet sauvignon selections that require a more sizable $200-plus investment. Something for everyone.
Ever the gin nut, I asked about the gin options, and was told they only have Hendricks. Wow. I love Hendricks, but it has a distinct flavor that the uninitiated may not like, a real gin-lover’s gin. “We don’t have much room back there,” the bartender explained, gesturing toward the back bar. “And no real complaints so far” about not having other gins available. He certainly wasn’t going to hear one from me.
I had a cocktail with the Hendricks that echoes one of the gin’s signature botanical flavors: cucumber. The gin was shaken with fresh cucumber juice and garnished with a twist of lemon, served on the rocks. It was delicious, the perfect elixir on a 95-degree summer’s day.
The snacks we had were great as well. I especially swooned over the “egg shooters,” served up deviled-egg style, with different flavor combos. The eggs come from a farm in upstate New York, a particularly good starting point. Embellishments include pickled peppers with olive oil mayo, smoked trout with trout roe, Cajun shrimp with pickled peppers, or pure and simple caviar.
What I loved about this spot was the complete package it offered in terms of decor, ambiance, size, food, drink. As an only-occasional visitor to this great city, it seemed so very “New York” to me. Folks here squeeze an incredible quality of life into small spaces, whether it’s the cozy, personal environment of the tiny apartments or the inviting, bustling small neighborhood bars and restaurants that become community living-rooms, extensions of a native’s home base. Not grand, expansive, tricked-out or consciously thematic, instead Blue Ribbon Downing Street was a happy refuge with a low profile and delicious offerings that satisfied completely.