Midtown, NYC. Largely occupied by tourists and suits looking to grab a drink before hoping on the train home, you don't exactly think awesome food when you talk about the area. It's mostly taken up by office buildings, Irish pubs, restaurants with pre-theater menus, and a persuasive Italian guy named Mario hustling you to come in and try their Thursday night special.
You may run into Elmo taking a cig break on the corner of 42nd and 9th via Midtown West, but hey, this is Midtown East, and here in Midtown East, it's strictly where Mad Men extras that got cut in Season 3 go to die.
Orrrr the perfect area to find a place to take the edge off before heading home to their cul-de-sac homes in Stamford, CT.
While you may have passed this place more times than you can count, writing it off as just another pub filled with finance dudes looking to forget about their day (I sure as shit have), Park Avenue Tavern is so much more than that. In fact, I'm borderline insulted that they even have the word tavern in their name, seeing as the food, drinks, and service are what you would find at a Michelin Star establishment somewhere on the Upper West Side.
Don't get me wrong - the atmosphere will definitely remind you that you're in a tavern, with their circular bar, wooden tables, and plenty of beers on tap - but the food will have you questioning just exactly where you are. I had high expectations going into this seeing as I've heard such great things, but everything - everything - exceeded those expectations for what I was embracing to be glorified bar food.
Annnnd, it sort of is, but not really. The menu items might scream it at a glance, as you'll notice burgers, entrees, and apps all reminiscent to what you'd find at any pub, but the flavors -- that's what really separates Park Avenue Tavern from the rest. It's clear that Joe the Cable Guy isn't back there throwing frozen chicken fingers into a fryer and nuking your side of marinara sauce in the microwave for 20 seconds. These are thoughtfully crafted plates that are coming out of this kitchen, and deserves a lot more credit than falling under a "tavern-like" category.
The music is bumping, the crowd is loud, and if you come around happy hour, good luck. It will be packed, you will wait for a table, there might be an after-work office party going on, but you know what... it's totally worth it.
The Food Standouts
Shisito Peppers - tossed in a sherry vinegar honey and topped with sesame seeds, I could have devoured this whole plate. It rings a true sweet & savory flavor note that hits the spot if you're a lover of Asian fare.
Mac & Cheese - bacon, cavatappi, tomato, cheddar, and jack cheese.. need I say more? Didn't think so. You're making the biggest mistake of your life if you don't order this, and I'm not saying that lightly. Do it for the children.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet - exactly as the name describes, this is a COOKIE BAKED IN A SKILLET and then topped with vanilla ice cream, choc-chips, and chocolate sauce. Fresh out of the oven, gooey, warm, and everything you'd want in a glutenous dessert. We demolished it within seconds.
Park Avenue Tavern, Midtown NYC: 9.5/10