135 West 50th Street, NYC
Waaaayy back in our youth-meaning college-we had a share in the scruffier part of the Hamptons (yes-this was during the dawn of "Masters of the Universe"so those kinds of parts in summery beach towns existed back then)...
AND our housemates were all in the restaurant biz in Manhattan. They'd surface at some point in the late afternoon on a Saturday, having driven straight from the Big Apple after their night shifts---as chefs, bar managers, etc.
Once emerged, with eyes fairly open-this human assortment knew the East/West/South/North Hampton restaurant scenes well. AND---their choice for a night's soireé...Bobby Van's in Bridgehampton (the original, fyi)...for a guaranteed combo of good, fresh food, buzzy crowd (but not too hyper or hyped), and a congenial staff that knew how to deliver service...including the eponymous Mr. Van on keyboards, on occasion.
Since then---Bobby Van's has been bought over by a quartet-and in the true spirit of America-has expanded into a collection of similarly named restaurants ---with a shared, diverse menu, terrific bar scenes for casual meets/greets...and professional service that is just right.
Just how right is apparent from the get-go...as we happened in on a bustling early evening bar/pre theater/post work scene at the West 50th Street locale in Manhattan...a short short walk from holiday full midtown hotels, Radio City Music Hall, and-non-tourist wise, several major financial institutions and law firms.
As we waited for our table, (with a pal-herself a veteran waitress herself of the 80's restaurant, JAMS)- the bartender made us both feel at ease- at once...offering up a really well thought out wine by the glass and craft beer selections (many domestic/international cult favs on tap too).
We could have sat there and eaten-there's a bar menu with appetizers (fried calmari, crab cakes, $15.95-$19.95)/small bites/raw bar selections like a per person seafood platter ($27.50) ---PLUS authentic---really- gourmand style pizza ($21.95-$23.95)-courtesy of authentic gigantic wood stove ovens, wisely kept from the previous occupants---all good for sharing...and in fact there are tables in that area-geared toward the casual side of things.
ALSO nice-the choice of chowing down in the buzzy main room-adjacent to the bar area---or feeding on the delicious food, talking in more subdued tones-in equally handsome, cordoned off dining areas -that on occasion, are selectively closed off for private parties.
Drinks served-a yummy Argentinian Malbec...and flute of champagne-(most selections range in price from $9-$14)...we had to ration ourselves from devouring the bread basket-which Bobby Van's style-is generously packed with crispy breadsticks assorted sour dough and plump, just out of the oven raison rolls, a big pile of addiction- topped off with as addictive sesame flatbread-like crackers.
NOTE-our carb phobic fellow triathletes would give the two thumbs up to our appetizers....a generous portion of the wishful habit forming, fresh Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna ($21.95) and Classic Caesar Salad ($15.95)-perfectly coated (not drowned) in flavorful dressing.
WHAT ELSE: There's a bunch of pasta menu options too-which if kids are in the house-is ideal-(like Spaghetti, Penne, Pomodoro...and Homemade Lasagna Bolognese $23.95-$25.95)...but we wanted to go for the signature dishes----that included a Steakhouse classic- buttery tender, and a rather hefty serving of Filet Mignon ($49.95)-masterfully cooked---...and a Miso and Tamari glazed, asparagus, Bok Choy and (copious amounts of )-Shitake Mushrooms in a White Truffle Fish Broth --- sinfully bathing a fresh Chilean Sea Bass-($39.95). The later was heavenly---we soaked up every drop with some bread -the fish a generous portion surrounded by the fragrant mushrooms and vegetables, subtly aromatic. We could eat this everyday!!! WISH.
The former-according to our pal-clearly a top grade cut---was equally transporting---a portion of which ended up in a home-bound doggy bag...and not for her dog either.
There's an entire sides' offerings too-with fresh asparagus in a pool of hollandaise sauce...and of course-a seriously large portion of french fries. ($11.95/per)---pretty much devoured.
After this feast-dessert was not beckoning us---but we did split a airy light slice of creamy pumpkin pie---and a flawlessly rendered cappuccino (we are beyond picky about our caffeine--and this was up to the challenge!!!).
AND CONSIDER: Other house specialties...not tried ---include a slew of cocktails and signature B.V's sangria, and a three course, prix-fixe lunch for $29.95.
FYI: A jaunt to DC a few days later---had us savoring the fresh Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna (hey, we did say it was habit forming)...and lucky us, a fairly new Bobby Van's (1201 New York Avenue) opened up near our hotel---which is close to the Convention Center, the Verizon Center (concerts, sports), bunches of hotels, big and small--and of course, numerous Federal agencies --and office loads of lobbyists and lawyers. Well it is DC!!!
ANYWAY, the manager there-a veteran of the NYC Broad Street locale...greeted us warmly...and pointed out the bar section-which is in a separate area--- than the wood paneled dining room.
Even though this was a fairly late time of night- for this town...and a Monday night at that---and there weren't any conventions/trade associations etc- going on ...the tables were almost all occupied by well dressed individuals...and the bar was packed with a celebratory crowd of also, rather well dressed individuals.
We knew they weren't celebrating the fiscal cliff solution...ha ha---but we chatted with a bunch---who are regulars at this locale---or the Bobby Van's over at 809 15th Street.
Big plus-unlike some 'similar' types of American grill/steakhouse types of restaurants---there is a consistency here...which we appreciated. And of course-ordered accordingly.
HINT: Gift certificates available.