New Yorkers who think that nothing worthwhile is happening north of Midtown (or Union Square for that matter) have another think comin’ with the deserving buzz around the retro disco/punk/funk bar and restaurant, Ethyl’s Alcohol and Food. I am hesitant to water it down by simply calling it a ‘70s-themed bar, because this gem doesn’t feel like a superficial façade of the era, rather its heart and soul are authentic. From the relaxed service, to the vinyl swirling bar stools, the tunes (of course!), old film posters, “Grease” on the television, hanging disco ball, and the go-go dancers sporting shimmering gold lycra leotards, it’s a feel-good time for a night out. I admittedly wasn’t around in the ‘70s, but at least for the night I felt like I was.
First impressions are everything. I knew I would like this place when I spotted it from across the street. Its illuminating neon sign stood out in the row of crowded bars. Not to mention, the entire block’s sidewalk was under construction at the time; and Ethyl’s boasted a red carpet across the temporary wooden makeshift ramp leading into the entryway. I have to give kudos for the way they turned the ramp into a Glamp!
I wouldn’t recommend going late-night on a Friday if you are looking for a quiet, reserved place to chat, though after-work happy hour during the week might be doable. Once 10pm hits, it’s a loud party scene with go-go dancers performing on the bar, a live deejay and musicians, and a high-energy, packed dance floor. It’s one of those places where you’ll most likely know every single song. If you’re off-pitch – don’t worry – no one will hear you anyway! The groovy jams of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Billy Joel, Sonny & Cher, and co. will surely drown you out. So, if you want to rock it out with friends and put on your boogie shoes, Ethyl’s should be on your list of watering holes.
It’s is the self-proclaimed “home of the Fi-Dolla Burger.” It was just the right size, satisfying without putting you into a food coma; and pretty darn good and juicy for only five bucks! I added bacon for an extra three dollars. Fried egg, guacamole, and caramelized onions are other optional add-ons. It’s not the place to be healthy, but if you have a hankering for comforting bar food, you’ll find exceptional quality. The hot chicken bun is a spicy chicken sandwich battered in crispy corn flake fry and cajun seasoning. Their disco curds are a must-have—fried cheese soaked in “groovy brown gravy.” Southerners will rejoice!
Their specialty cocktails are wittily named The Sleazy Mustache, Bump & Grind, and Chocolate Harlem Honey. I tried one of their most popular, Marilyn’s Chamber (vodka, raspberry syrup, lemon juice, agave and a sage garnish) and the Hot Blooded (tequila, blood orange, agave, muddled jalapeno and fresh lime)—the latter was my preference of the two. I like my beverages as spicy as my food.
I’m planning my next visit. Now that the Q train is traveling express from Union Square and Times Square to the Upper East Side, if the city has more spots open up like this one, Second Avenue will sweepingly become “cool again” all the way down from the East Village to up, and up, and up.
Ethyl’s Alcohol and Food is located at 1629 2nd Avenue between East 84th and 85th streets, New York, NY 10028. 212-300-4132. Hours of operation are: Monday-Friday 4 p.m. – 4 a.m., Saturday and Sunday noon-4 a.m. Kitchen open daily until 4 a.m.
Photos by Noah Fecks