Justin and I embarked on yet another Manhattan adventure last night. We had bought tickets to see Bleachers at Terminal 5 a few months back. Obviously dinner plans were a necessity, and thus were born 5:30 reservations at Charlie Bird.
I took the express bus into the city to meet Justin after work. And, as usual, I arrived over an hour early (it’s the OCD – it just happens). So it wasn’t my fault; I had to get a drink at the bar while I was waiting. What else was I supposed to do?
I went with the amazingly simple and delicious Old Pal: Rye, Vermouth, and Campari. I also took advantage of the hour I was relaxing at the still empty bar/restaurant to take in the whole ambiance of the place.
As the daughter AND sister of FDNY firefighters, I thoroughly enjoyed the comforting view of an NYC firehouse across the street, visible from any seat in the restaurant. The layout is a little odd: it’s a long and narrow restaurant. But I think it works. I loved the feel of the place. While I am not a fan of rap or hip hop (at all), the 90s hip hop that played throughout the meal was kind of cool somehow. It feels like such a chic, elegant, NYC-esque restaurant, full of only the hipsterest and gayest employees, but with 90s rap subtly seranading us. I actually caught Justin gently “singing” along to Cypress Hill at one point… it was so weird. While I was waiting at the bar, it was also nice to see the employees’ personalities as they merrily bantered with one another and set up for their busy evening. The place just felt comfortable and welcoming and warm, and the staff seemed really happy to be there. While I do enjoy judging restaurants on the variety and choice of bottles behind their bars, I loved the clean and empty look of the Charlie Bird bar. I loved their tall, oversized, and perfectly simple wine glasses. And I quietly smiled to myself when I spotted the PDT Cocktail Book tucked into a shelf behind their espresso maker – this book is a permanent fixture on our living room’s coffee table, and a must have for any bartender (recently confirmed by one of Staten Island’s great and few mixologists, Danny Ippolito!).
Justin arrived right around 5:30 and we were promptly seated. The restaurant filled up within the first hour of our meal. Again, the anxiety set in as we looked down at the menu, which we had already memorized from stalking their website the night before.
The focaccia, so exquisitely drenched in olive oil, eased the worry. Or it at least helped. I was disappointed that our waiter, who was so flamboyantly bubbly during my creepy stalking of the restaurant from the bar, seemed to have toned down his personality and was overly serious and disconnected during the meal. Don’t get me wrong, he was still great: very attentive and willing to answer my million questions. He was certainly a big help in making our decisions. But I wanted the real gay that I had happily observed prior to being seated. Sigh…
Ok, so we went with the following: razor clams (fennel and pickled chiles), tripe toast (lovely style), sweet pea and mint salad (smoked veal pastrami, horseradish), bone marrow (anchovies and lemon), chilled spring asparagus (radish, mint and duck crumble), chitarra nero (blue crab, chiles, lemon), and spaghetti alla ‘carbonara’ (spring onions, duck egg, smokey bacon). And after placing our order, I had a full blown panic attack that we were missing the live diver scallop (brown butter, garlic chives and sicilian lemon), so I made Justin maniacally waved our waiter down and add that on (thank God).
The raw plates, salad, toast, and bone marrow all came out pretty much together, way too fast in my opinion. It felt just a tiny bit rushed and overwhelming. But the plates were all small enough that we were able to work through them quickly. They were all absolutely and completely delicious. The absolute favorites were the tripe toast and the live diver scallops; I would strongly encourage anyone who checks this spot out to not miss either of these plates. The tripe had almost a smokey charred tomato flavor: it was unlike any tripe I’ve ever had. Justin and I both decided that if anyone, even the most unadventurous eater, tasted this tripe, they would be sold on it. And the scallops: omg, the way they drizzled that brown butter on top, and then it hardened creating this sweet solid fat on top… woah. And the bone marrow, razor clams, and salad were amazing as well. The pastrami in the salad was great, and the clams… and the amazing anchovy flavor in the bone marrow. They were all incredible.
To drink with our meal, we went with one of their more reasonably priced wines, a $60 bottle. They had wines ranging from $45 to well into the hundreds… The bottles under $75 were few and far between, but this one turned out to be great:
Next, the asparagus and pasta dishes came out:
These pasta dishes were pretty ridiculous. The Chitarra Nero (with blue crab, chiles, and lemon) was a spicy and zesty tasting dish. I liked that they had divided this dish for us into two separate bowls, so that I could devour it immediately, without having to do any work. It was spicier than I expected, but not too spicy that I wasn’t able to completely empty the bowl in record time.
The Spaghetti alla ‘Carbonara’ (with spring onions, duck egg, and smokey bacon) was perfection: it was like a bacon bomb. And, being Baconboozer, a bacon bomb is right up my alley. I adored both pasta dishes. If I had to choose only one, I think I’d go with the Carbonara (eggy and bacony and salty and amazing), but I think it really would depend on your preferences and mood. I have a feeling the other pastas might be gloriously amazing, too. It’s stressful, I know.
The asparagus (with a radish, mint, and duck crumble) was great, but a rather small serving: only seven spears of asparagus. And all of the flavor was in the center of the bowl, difficult to get with every bite. I think they’d be better off chopping up the asparagus to let every bite absorb some of that duck crumble heaven.
On to dessert, and dear God, these were sublime.
We went with a bottle of the La Spinetta Moscato (a little bubbly sweet wine – very nice), the Winesap Apple Olive Oil Cake (mascarpone and salty oat crumble) and the Warm Chocolate Budino (olive oil gelato and caramelized rice krispies).
There’s really not much I can say other than that if you have a sweet tooth, you need these in your life and in your mouth ASAP. These were possibly two of the most innovative and wonderful desserts I have ever eaten, particularly the chocolate budino: that olive oil gelato… I want a gallon of it.
All in all, Charlie Bird’s food was practically perfection, and exactly what I was hoping for: surprising and big flavors. I will say, however, that the raw and small plates are very small. For their price point, I would have liked to see a little more on the plates. This was a pricey meal: $325 with the tip. For that much money, I want to be disgustingly full and hating myself when I leave, but I honestly could have squeezed in another few dishes. Maybe I’m supposed to be obese for the amount of food it takes to fill me up, but I’m just thinking about the plates at Traif or Toro (two of my five star restaurants), and we got a lot more bang for our buck there. With that being said, Charlie Bird earned a very honorable four star Baconboozer rating. I really encourage anyone to check it out, once they’ve saved up a few paychecks.
After the meal, we headed up to Terminal 5 for the Bleachers Concert. We had seen Bleachers perform a few songs before, at one of those radio hosted shows with multiple artists, and they were pretty awesome. So we were excited to see them do their own thing. Doors opened at 7:00, and we got there at about 7:30. We headed upstairs (go up the stairs to your right) to the second floor balcony, and were still able to get a great spot. Night Terrors of 1927 and Joywave opened. Both had lots of energy and were fun to watch. But Bleachers was amazing. Doing covers of both Fleetwood Mac and Kanye West (ew, I despise him, but the cover was cool), they kept the audience totally engaged, dancing, and singing the whole time. I screamed along to most of the concert. They closed out their set with my favorite song of theirs, “I Wanna Get Better,” which was perfect. Jack Antonoff’s fun energy and appreciation for the band’s fans was apparent throughout the show. Justin and I also befriended two girls standing behind us after one of them got into a fight with some other bitchy girl who was trying to sneak in front of people. When the girl behind us told her off, I turned around and high fived her, and we were instants BFFs, singing along and swaying to every song together for the remainder of the show. I love when that stuff happens. It was a really great time.
Here are some pics from the concert, including my favorite picture from the restroom: my creepy ghostlike reflection in the stall door – I thought this was the coolest thing ever.
An amazing meal, an amazing concert, and an amazing night.