Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Game Day Beer Bar Review: A New York State of Mind

photo by Bernt Rostadvia PhotoRee

The other night while in town on a business trip, I walked into Vol de Nuit, a Belgian beer bar located the SoHo area of New York City. More of a lounge than a restaurant, I was lured there by the promised collection of Belgian taps, but even more so by a hunger to sate myself with the supposedly world class pomme frites. You can imagine my disappointment when I plonked myself down at the bar, perused the beer menu, and placed my order for a Corsendonk avec frites, only to be told that they were OUT of fries that night. Major downer.  Especially when that's one of the only two food items Vol de Nuit has on their menu (the other being moules, or mussels, naturally).

In any event, I trudged onward and redoubled my efforts to concentrate on the beer menu. The place was about a quarter full, clearly not prime time there, but that was okay with me as it meant there were seats available at the bar. Naked red lightbulbs hung from the faux copper-paneled ceiling, creating a hipster vibe that matched the New York University undergrad clientele.

I'm not sure this place would be on my regular rotation if I still lived in the City. It's beer selection hits all the big Belgian names (Delirium, Palm, Orval) but I didn't see much that I couldn't get at my local beer store in South Florida, and the lack of bar food is, in my mind, a glaring omission. The bar had a decent selection of glassware -- a must for any serious Belgian bar -- but it looked like it was last re-decorated in about 1936. I think they keep the lights very low on purpose....

In truth, it did have kind of a neighborhood vibe -- which is rare in NY -- but it just wasn't the kind of neighborhood in which I'd want to live.

Much more to my liking was the Blind Tiger, which was my second stop for the evening.  Taken there by some beer-loving friends from college who live in the City, the Blind Tiger held inside its walls an awesome array of craft beers on both tap and in the bottle.  Although I only had time for one more before turning in for the evening -- the Green Flash IPA, from the West Coast -- I quickly decided this is definitely a spot to which to return.

The bar was crowded, with some of us squeezed over in the corner by the small television, watching the last half of a remarkably poor NCAA Mens' Basketball Championship game, but the star of the show was the beer: chalkboards and chalkboards of it.  This was a place where people got comfortable, squeezed into the tables to quaff their beers, and have a good time.  They take their beer very seriously at the Blind Tiger, and the selection was excellent.

This is definitely a place that made me feel at home, and one I plan to return to on my next trip to the City.

Beer reviews to follow in the coming days.... but back to footie in the meantime.

This is farlieonfootie for April 26.

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