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The Early Word on The Gilroy Family's East Side Social Club

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Kreiger, 11/22/09

A little over a week ago, Midtowners finally got their wish: a sleek, sexy 40's throwback eatery for those without the connections to get into Monkey Bar. Though, the place shouldn't be simply written off as a backup for folks who Graydon Carter rejects. The new bar/restaurant is run by Macao and Employees Only owner Billy Gilroy, his brother Jim, son Devon, and daughter Grace, and counts the photographer Patrick McMullan as an investor. So far, the early word back from the bloggers and foodie set is a mixed bag, with some citing it as a revelation for midtown while others deem it a Monkey Bar wannabe. For an idea of what to expect, let's take a look at the good, the bad and the ridiculous:

The Fantastic News: A Yelper can't stop heaping praise on the joint, shill detectors take note: "ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL! The atmosphere is perfect and the food devine. Italian provincial with style and class. I was seated immediately, offered a drink, and the specials explained in detail. The menu is a variety of the classic (fresh seafood pasta) through to tastes to intrigue the discerning (swordfish and sea urchin). If you're after a burger and fries this is not your kind of place. The meals here are to delight and tantelise. My meal was served within minutes (it seemed) of ordering. It was fresh, crisp and quite frankly, to die for. I can HIGHLY recommend the swordfish, and the polenta (on the side) is an ideal accompaniment. I had no problem getting a table at 7:45pm without a reservation; however, as word gets out about this little gem I suspect it will be wise to book in advance." [Yelp]

The Not So Great News: Fork in the Road stops by to sample the cocktail offerings, which don't quite live up to their high prices: "East Side Social Club, looks like it was snatched straight from a Mad Men set--all red walls, low light, kitschy red-and-white-checked tablecloths, oil paintings of Italy, and a massive crystal chandelier. Too bad the cocktails aren't offered at vintage prices--they're $14, which is at least $4 too much, but if you're in the area, it's worth a stop just to ogle the interior. The Blood and Sand [...] calls for Scotch, cherry brandy, sweet vermouth, and orange juice. East Side Social Club's version uses all the right ingredients, but ends up too sweet." [VV]

The Good News: The Skinny Pig pens a rave, loving everything from the decor to the "ridiculous" chocolate tart: "Walking into the East Side Social Club last night, I felt slightly out of place without a cigarette holder and fur coat. The decor is reminiscent of a 1940's restaurant - and while it's very obvious, it's not kitschy or tacky in any way. [My] chicken was juicy and seasoned well, while the crispy kale and cannelini beans in garlic jus rounded out this simple dish. Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Tart. Those are five words I wouldn't mind hearing every day. This tart was unreal. Ange had the right words to describe it: "this is...a little ridiculous." The overall dining experience was excellent, including the reliable service. The people seated around us were commenting on the food and despite the loud crowd, you could hear echoes of "delicious" and "amazing". According to some fellow diners, the Branzino was a big hit. My initial thoughts on this place (just from hearing the name) were "pretentious" and "probably tiny portions". However, the staff couldn't be more friendly, and the menu is in keeping with the concept: simple and sexy. [SkinnyPig]

The "It's No Monkey Bar" News: A Tiger in the Kitchen finds that the food is adequate, but nothing about the place stacks up to Monkey Bar: "If you're expecting anything like the fashionable, genteel comfort of modern supper clubs like Graydon Carter's Monkey Bar, you're going to be a little disappointed. East Side Social Club's ambience really is more akin to the chain restaurant Buca di Beppo's. It was so loud the three of us at the table had to shout at one another simply to discuss our dinner choices. I started with the Blood & Sand and it signaled a good start to the meal. Gnocchi with a bolognese ragu ($17) came with a giant dollop of creamy ricotta -- this wasn't anything special. But, as basic Italian comfort food goes, this was done fairly nicely. The food hadn't been bad -- although, factoring in how standard and generally not-terribly-mind-blowing they were, we weren't sure that it had all been entirely worth the prices." [TigerintheKitchen]

The Twitterific News: @PremiumLG likes everything across the board, including the waitstaff, apparently: "Good scene, Great food. Highly reccomend. Say hello to Gianni the waiter!" @CaravelleChamp pens a praise filled instareview: "Had great fun at East Side Social Club [...] great Italian cuisine, charming room: instant patina, can't wait to go back!" [Twitter]
—Matt Duckor

East Side Social Club

230 East 51st St., New York, NY