675 Bar, 675 Hudson St, Meatpacking District
Hey, remember the Meatpacking District? Or has it so long been the dominion of shiny-shirted out-of-towners and the stiff-haired offspring of foreign dignitaries that it's completely faded from your memory? Try to remember your way west: 675 Bar, the new downstairs drinking den on 13th Street and Hudson, is a valiant effort by the BR Guest restaurant group to save the neighborhood from its current velvet-rope-and-bottle-service death spiral. The subterranean grotto is painstakingly eclectic, with thrift store furniture, books from Housing Works, and a life-size horse replica named Mr. Rufus keeping watch from the corner. Little stone caves along the wall hide a Foosball table and a Pacman machine, and cocktails arrive in goblets that look like oversized cough syrup cups on stems. At last, there's a place to drink in the District without feeling like an extra in A Night at the Roxbury.
The weekends are packed, but 675 hasn't yet become an after work bar, so a weeknight is a good time to check the place out. It also ensures the undivided attention of the very welcoming, model-attractive staff. Server Noa Livne flopped down at our table to help decipher the cryptic "Mixed Drinks" menu, featuring concoctions by mixologist Eben Klemm (all $10). They're strange, difficult drinks: as precisely made as any downtown speakeasy's, but not as easy to love at first sip. The "Rest and Recuperation," a blend of rye, rye beer and lemon, comes over ice and is garnished with a salted pretzel stick. The Karzai, named for the Afghan president's heroin-running brother, is a desserty, creamy, egg white preparation that tastes a lot like soymilk and is served over a huge heap of poppy seeds. The evening's big miss was the Algerian Typist, made with mezcal and harissa. It smelled a lot like shellac and burned furiously all the way down — no one could take more than a sip.
The drinks at 675 Bar can be alienating, but the small plates are straight-up comfort. The prosciutto-wrapped hot pockets ($8) are worth the trip themselves: delicately deep-fried pillows of soft cow's cheese are draped with prosciutto and served over a bed of spicy greens. The potato bun encasing Silver Dollar Chicken Parm' ($9) puts it a notch above the typical deli's, and the rosemary potato fries ($7) are lightly infused by the sprig of herb that rests in the basket.
Amidst the neighborhood's strobe lights and throbbing beats, 675 Bar is a welcome tonic. The drinks could use rethinking, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.