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21 Club

February 5th, 2008 · No Comments


After a Thursday evening cocktail reception my husband and I found ourselves hungry in midtown at around 9:30pm. Where to grab dinner? We’d been craving cheeseburgers, but didn’t want to travel 20 blocks up to JG Melon. We were considering The Burger Joint as well as Smith and Wollensky when a friend, overhearing our dilemma, suggested the 21 Club just around the corner. We had never been to the iconic NYC eatery and it seemed a good a night as any to give it a try.

The maître’d snickered at the fact that we didn’t have a reservation, but then promptly seated us in the Bar Room amongst the Restaurant Week revelers. Expecting a “clubby” and “old boys” feel, I was not surprised by the wooden banquets and white and red checked table cloths. I was, however, taken aback by the hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of toys that hung from the ceiling. Interestingly, many of these plastic planes, trains, and automobiles have been given to the restaurant from loyal patrons.

Service was, like at so many steakhouse- type restaurants, mediocre and somewhat gruff. We had to flag down the waiter for menus and finding someone to refresh a cocktail was impossible.

We skipped the Restaurant Week menu and instead, opted for two “21 Classics”: the 21 Burger and the Creamy Chicken Hash. The burger, packed into a meatloaf-like density, carried the distinct taste of duck fat. Pickled green beans and sweet caramelized onions were zesty fixings. The Pommes Soufflees, individually puffed and hollowed potato chips, were crispy and airy. The burger was good, but not $30 good. A $5 dollar cab ride up to JG Melon for their $8.50 cheeseburger and $4 cottage fries would have been money better spent.

Cubed chicken pieces slathered in tasteless cream sauce made for a very disappointing Chicken Hash. It needed more salt. In needed more cheese. It needed more time under the broiler. It needed to be a fraction of its $36 price tag to be acceptable.

The 21 Club might be an institution with a long and storied history, but it seems to be riding the coattails of the lawn jockeys that stand guard outside. The experience is overpriced, and at least during our brief visit, it was also unremarkable.

21 Club
21 W 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 265-1900

Neighborhood: Midtown

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