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The Early Word on LES Tiki Den Painkiller

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Krieger, 5/5/10

Painkiller, the tiki-meets-NYC-grit watering hole that took over the former East Side Company Bar space, only officially opened two weeks ago. But already, the reviews are coming in. Owned and operated by the team behind Long Island City's Dutch Kills, the drink list has been culled (and tinkered with) from the annals of tiki history. It seems that the cocktails are strong, the space is narrow, and the AC is bumpin'. To the early word:

The Good News: On the Chowhound boards, Kathryn says the drinks are strong and the room is cool. "...the drinks are QUITE strong and they don't have any food yet (supposed to have free hot dogs at some point in the near future). However, some of the cocktails are only $12 (a few are $16), which is surprising for how good they are. I've tried a bunch of different ones and been pleased very much so far (mai tai, painkiller, cradle of life, zombie, banana daiquiri, strawberry daiquiri, and a few others I can't recall). They do allow standing but only at the bar, and the bar is VERY narrow. It's also very cold in the seated area due to their brand new, arctic blast-ing air conditioner." [CH]

The Pricey News: While the folks over at NYDrinker enjoyed the bar's atmosphere, they warn this isn't a cheap watering hole. "Unfortunately, regular drinks run $12, “specialty” drinks run $16, and “scorpion bowls” run $50. Bottles of Red Stripe and Brooklyn Lager are $6, but a trendy tiki bar is hardly the venue to futz around with its short menu of marked-up, relatively uninteresting bottled beers." And explaining all those specialty drinks can slow things down. "With an exotic menu that takes time to explain in detail, and drinks that are meticulously crafted, patrons can find themselves waiting for service. This is to take nothing away from the staff, who are extremely friendly, hard working, and eager to assist a confused patron." Ultimately, while Painkiller is a unique bar, "there is a limited demography of patrons willing to consistently shell out for refills on $12 drinks, and it’s not necessarily a patient group." [NYD]

The Good News: While drinks may be pricey, The Chiconomist notes that the drinks are usually pretty large: "We were sold on the Miami Vice ($14), a combo of strawberry daiquiri and piña colada served in a tall glass (we were assured it was like getting 1.5 of a drink, which was pretty accurate).It was refreshing and I loved that it was blended perfectly smooth. I would've liked it better if the strawberry, pineapple and coconut flavors were more evident. It's only been open for a bit more than a week and we were the first people to order the Miami Vice, so I'm sure it'll be pretty perfect in a few months' time." [Chiconomist]

The Crowded News: Citysearch's Patrick Heig says that Painkiller "brings the South Pacific fantasy to the deep Lower East Side." As with most anticipated bar openings, Heig notes that space is tight: "This is not a good spot for parties larger than four--there are booths for two and four in the back, but good luck snagging one, and the bar area is so narrow you'll bump uglies with everyone you squeeze by." [CS]

The Yelptastic News: Yelpers seem to be falling over themselves to praise the place, with Erick C. calling it "easily one of the best new bars in NYC. If you think tiki cocktails are nothing but sugar bomb with too much juice that's just cause you've never had real tiki." Christian K. thinks slightly higher prices are a good thing: "The service was excellent, the drinks a bit pricey, but as one of our companions cheerfully pointed out, the prices keep the yahoos at bay, and, for the most part, the bar remained acceptably crowded yet not too claustrophobic." And Kathleen R. says we should be grateful that one island culture is meeting ours. "Anyone who remembers the old East Side Company Bar will appreciate the aesthetic overhaul: I loved the distinct Manhattan meets Islands neon graffiti adorining the walls and bamboo accents. And oh yes, there are boobies on the bar. Careful with those Mai Tais, or yours may end up out there as well." [Yelp]

The Gimmicky News: An Eater reader writes in, "The bar is definitely cool, and I love the vibe, but it's way too gimmicky to return to too many times. My bartender was kind of surly and a majority of the drinks are sickly sweet or absurdly strong. The menu is so streamlined that it required explanation but the bartender didn't seem very into giving me the run down on what my options were." [Eater Tipline]


49 Essex St., New York, Ny

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