Passing the Bar: Abe & Arthur’s

Written by James Mulcahy on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

MEATPACKING DISTRICT SPOT Abe & Arthur’s is New York nightlife all growed up.

The space used to house Lotus, one of the first clubs to plop down amidst the trannies and leather bars that inhabited the Far West Side of 2000. During those days, a Cosmopolitan was considered a quality cocktail and the velvet rope era was in its infancy. As the decade wore on, though, the neighborhood’s smutty spots were washed away and replaced with overpriced clubs that drew the stiletto-clad crowds like drunken moths to striped-shirt, bottle-buying flames.

Well, here we are in a new decade, and the innocence of New York nightlife has been broken by a fierce recession. Lotus closed, and many (though not us) lamented the end of an era. Luckily, the new batch of bars in the neighborhood we swore we’d boycott after The Passerby died doesn’t seem half bad. One in particular, Abe & Arthur’s, marks the transition between an impetuous youth who can’t control his urges ($600 bottle of Absolut, please!) and an older, more sophisticated crowd that can bask in the glow of nighttime in Manhattan without falling face-forward on the cobblestone streets as they exits the bar.

In the bar area you’ll find a fashionable set, but they don’t squawk about last night’s celeb spotting like they used to (do the Olsen twins ever stay in?). Rather, the buzz in the room is about the menu: classic American fare that we can’t afford but have heard is delicious.The staff, clad in Converse sneakers, is scruffily attractive, and the bartenders don the cheeky Prohibition-style uniforms that are everywhere these days, officially marking the point when Prohibition rehash has lasted longer than the real thing. Instead of Cosmos, you’ll find thoughtfully made cocktails like the Allen Poe, a delicious and potent mix of Woodford Reserve, maple syrup and bitters.The Hemingway Daiquiri is another winner, the blend of rum, grapefruit and cherry liqueur both refreshing and potent enough for Papa himself. One to skip is their Singapore Sling, the fruity gin drink that can’t compete with the better, cheaper version down the road at The Rusty Knot.

The dining room is lushly lit and carries an intimate vibe. It’s small enough to do some fun flirting with the neighboring tables, but large enough that you can have a quiet conversation with friends while (and if) you eat. If you want to pony up for the chow, check out the savory side of succotash and

prepare yourself for the inevitable Looney Toons joke. All of the dishes are light and send you out into the night with plenty of room for more drinks.

A few sorry vestiges of Meatpacking District past linger around the spot. A $36 glass of pink Champagne may have seemed like a good idea while in the throes of adolescence, but age has brought wisdom about money. For only $2 less, you can have the Day Boat Cod and Rock Shrimp entrée. The bar and restaurant also sit on top of the SL nightclub, so you’re still likely to find some overly aggressive meatheads trying to game their way past the ropes when you exit.

When the Meatpacking District started its transformation, everyone was horrified at what it would become.The fear was that every night would see a traffic jam of limos, that the neighborhood’s gritty character would be whitewashed by European tourists looking to spend too much on drinks. A visit to Abe & Arthur’s puts this worry to rest. Like many a troubled teen, it looks like the area’s going to be OK after all.

> Abe & Arthur’s

409 W. 14th St. (betw. 9th Ave. & Washington St.), 646-289-3930.