Lower East Side: It's been nearly two weeks since Michael Huynh opened Bia Garden, his take on a Vietnamese beer garden. With the Bao empire behind it and a unique beverage program--you order by the six pack, twelve pack or case but only pay for what you drink--Bia has a lot going for it. So far the hype seems to be sustaining. Early reviews skew overwhelmingly positive and are backed up by reports of long wait times. But with summer over and nothing but the promise of heat lamps and an all weather canopy, will an outdoor only venue make it through winter? On to what we do know:
The Great News: Home Sweet NYC files a rave, loving the entire concept from top to bottom: "I'm typing this while in a food and beer coma, but I'm so pleased after a perfect night out that I had to share. Our waiter, possibly one of the nicest waiters I've ever been served by, came by and took our drink orders. The way it works is you order a six pack (or more) of beer bottles off their Asian beer menu, which features beers from all over Asia, and they bring it to you on ice. You're only charged for what you drink. Let me tell you, I'd go back for the pork belly and the summer rolls alone - they were that good." [Home Sweet NYC]
The Good News: A Yelper loves the understanding staff and writes that the food hits the spot: "Within the first ten minutes, not only had I knocked over and shattered a glass candle, but we also changed our party of six to a party of nine, dwindled back to a party of seven, before settling on a table of 12. The staff of Bia Garden did not even flinch and quickly put together tables for us. No attitude, no fuss, just great service. Menus are currently sheets of water-stained paper but that's no reason to disregard food. The unadorned slices of pork belly, though pricey at $14, was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I'd definitely consider returning. The place is low-key and cozy, perfect for groups. Happily, the half open-air garden doesn't try too hard and the result is, I expect, exactly what the owner hoped it would be: a relaxing place to kick back, have a few beers, and enjoy some fancied-up street cart food." [Yelp]
The It Feels Like a Vacation News: A MetroMix user sings praises about pretty much everything: "The Food Tastes Very Authentic! :) A+ for that! The Price is very reasonable! The Atmosphere, very charming and sweet, and airy. There's Great music in the background, loud enough to feel to forget the world outside this sweet secluded garden. And the service! Is wonderfully attentive, by lovely beautiful young ladies who are so sweet and polite, you'd feel as though you are on vacation!" [MetroMix]
The Gael News: Gael Green pens a mixed review, a little confused about the shabby decor and no fuss service, but pleased with the food options: "It’s not quite finished. You might walk by without seeing it. Bia Garden is handwritten on a sheet of copy paper taped to the window, below a huge sign advertising “Crops for Girls” above. Can this be it? Shabby stairs lead down to a cubbyhole where two guys sit as if waiting to take your cleaning, or your bet. And then up stairs to the “garden,” half covered, half open to the Lower East Side sky (waiting for an all-weather canvas), to your small table, bare wood seats, a throw pillow. Are we the only table asking for beer glasses? And water? And a serving spoon to dish out the fine green mango salad, spicy and salty too? If eaters like us swarm here, it will definitely gum up turnover. BBQ honey glazed lemongrass ribs are a must. I’m tempted to order a encore." [Insatiable Critic]
The Twitterific News: @bonblue9 thought the one hour wait was worth it, @lorwich loved the service, pork belly and crab spring rolls, and @CitysearchNYC thinks it's definitely Michael “Bao” Huynh's most fun restaurant.