Sunday, January 22, 2006

Employees Only

Employees Only. Restaurant. Hudson Avenue and Christopher Street.

I went to Employees Only on Saturday night with 3 of my girlfriends. Our reservation was at 10pm and we got there at 10:30 only to find it as packed as Becketts on a Thursday night. As we tried to make our way through the thick bar crowd, my friend Marisa quipped, "I feel like I'm at rush." Hysterical. I did feel like it was some sort of cheesy sorority event considering the number of jappy girls shrieking over the tunes of the Gorillaz.

But even with the ear-piercing crowd I couldn't help but be enamoured by the restaurant's humble decor. A slice of 1940, the bartenders wore traditional crisp white shirts complete with handlebar moustaches that recalled Barnum Bailey more than a greasy trucker. The waitresses wore loose grey flannel minidresses that resembled burlap bags with disheveled hair as if they were barmaids in some Russian tavern. This place had character. The whole setting was just so refreshing compared to the sleek minimalism that so many trendy restaurants love these days. With a comprehensive cocktail list and a menu of gourmet comfort food, the place could be really laid back if it wasn't for those annoying sorority girls and frat boys.

I had the smoked trout, squid and white bean salad in a saffron broth which was absolutely delicious. Sarah and Marisa shared the roasted chicken with truffled mashed potatoes and Marisa, who does not eat, could not get enough. Impressive. The maitre d kept giving us every drink on the menu (didn't get his name unfortunately) so we got to try everything. Tip: the only cocktail worth ordering is the strawberry one which is not too sweet or syrupy, really fresh and just looks really pretty. Otherwise I'd suggest wine or a vodka soda. Avoid at all costs the dark burgundy cocktail that literally tastes like junior high school (think parents' liquor cabinet in a glass) and the yellow tropical looking one that they definitely ripped from Sandales beach resort.

Final word: A great choice for dinner with a good group of friends before a night out.

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