265 Elizabeth St,between Houston and Prince Sts.
The first thing I noticed at Elizabeth, Nolita’s striking new outdoor/indoor minimalist bar/restaurant, was the staff milling about — mostly because the place was next to empty. So it was surprising that we were granted a table in the dramatic and airy patio only after much intra-staff conferencing, and only after we swore we’d order food. Except the hostess wasn’t there and we weren’t allowed to sit without her. We waited in the glossy bar area surrounded by six staffers. It was awkward. It was confusing.
But, moving ahead. Elizabeth’s cocktail list puts an emphasis on fresh, clever ingredients (some of them poured from the lovely decanters of just-squeezed juice lining the black bar), and the Double Down ($13) was a subtly tasty summer cocktail, with tequila, lime, agave, cucumber and Serrano chilies. It was so subtle, however, that the most standout flavor was the cucumber — that’s hard to do and maybe not so great. Call me a cheap philistine, or a drunk, but for $13 I like to taste the tequila. My companion ordered a Midnight Tea ($14) of Earl Grey-infused gin, strawberry, lemon and pink peppercorn that arrived in the world’s tiniest martini glass. Tea-party portions at hedge-funder prices! That drink was, at least, undeniably delicious.
The rest of the booze list is long and fulsome, with a by-the-glass menu of sparkling, white, red, rose and bottles of the same, beer and — oh good — bottled water by Voss for $8. Yet for an establishment with an emphasis on libations, there isn’t much in the way of bar food. (NB: If you do get the Crispy Cheeseburger for $12, keep in mind that that does not include fries.)
The stark patio, decorated with a thin sprinkling of potted plants and what felt like plastic furniture, seemed to me chilly and antiseptic — but it apparently suited the older clientele, who had no qualms making creaky demands. On my left a man ordered a cocktail with “No sugar. No simple syrup, no sugar of any kind,” and on my right a woman ordered grilled fish with “No oil. Whatsoever.”
Not to be Scrooge McDuck, but seriously, good luck getting drunk here. Even if you go on a Midnight Tea bender — and they’re delicious, but so tiny you’ll need to drink about 11 of them — the bill will sober you immediately. This might be a fun late-night spot, when there isn’t as much pressure to eat, and the minimalist backyard (with retractable roof and an extra bar) looks cool and sleek rather than bright and empty. For early-evening drinks in the fading sunshine, though, it was awkward. It was confusing.