District Revisited

05/27/2009 4:00 AM |

675 Bar, 675 Hudson St, Meatpacking District

Rating: 3L’s

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.