At any given moment in New York City, there are a thousand different happenings: musical performances; Broadway shows; cocktail bar events; food truck showdowns; various parties, and a litany of other celebrations. With so many options, planning a single night out in New York can be as daunting as strategizing a trip to a small foreign country.
Fortunately, a growing breed of venues is making decisions a bit easier by serving equally high caliber meals and entertainment that make Dave & Buster’s seem like a carnival graveyard. Perhaps the granddaddy of these top-notch hybrid spots is Brooklyn Bowl, which, since 2009, has enabled bowlers to roll to incredible live music (from such acts as The Roots, Deer Tick and Elvis Costello) between bites from Blue Ribbon. And since 2011, Nitehawk Cinema has accompanied its screenings with gourmet film-themed menus, indulging those who ever dreamt of eating an actual dish called the Truffle Shuffle while watching The Goonies.
But leading today’s new class of hybrid venues is south Williamsburg’s Baby’s All Right, which, since February, has been a one-stop shop for live indie rock and remarkable food from chef Ronald Murray, formerly of Bouley and Acme. While most traditional music venues and concert halls dish up chicken wings or nachos as mere beer-accompanying fare (if they offer any food at all), Murray chooses a more exciting approach, with a balance of vegan-friendly items and carnivorous treats.
Unlike at Brooklyn Bowl or Nitehawk, however, patrons can stop by Baby’s for some delicious roast pumpkin or tasty lamb meatballs without any further obligations. Your silverware won’t rattle from any post-punk or electro-pop as you eat: “The second you take away the intimacy of a dining room…you’re destroying what dining is all about,” says Murray of the decision to separate their spacious dining room from the performance area.
But to truly appreciate this joint is to stay for the entertainment, which is offered seven nights a week. After all, Murray concedes, “The original draw to the whole place was the music.” Since its opening, the restaurant has flourished—as has the bar, in part due to its irresistible happy hour offering: $3 Pink Babies (frozen mate-grapefruit lemonades spiked with vodka). Today, Baby’s All Right practically functions as three independent venues operating in glorious synchronicity.
Baby’s isn’t the only multitasking joint in town. Here are four other restaurant-venue hybrids offering awesome entertainment without sacrificing the quality of the food and drink they serve:
Rent a court for $40 and enjoy an hour’s worth of shuffleboard while enjoying cocktails and a lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster, a Gruyère and grilled asparagus sandwich from Morris Grilled Cheese, or one of many other delicacies from the food trucks that take turns parking at Royal Palms.
At the Williamsburg nightclub Verboten, one can enjoy a lovely Sunday brunch directed by chef Nick Grosz (formerly of Momofuku and Scarpetta), and sweat out those almond griddle cakes with rhubarb and chantilly cream by dancing to house music until the wee hours of Monday morning (2 a.m., to be exact).
Manhattan’s Ping-Pong headquarters hired Michael Roberts (previously executive chef of Park Slope’s Flatbush Farm) to curate a menu that features atypical bar fare such as wheat berry salad, truffle frites and SPiNghettiOs (anelletti pasta in a short rib ragù).
Boerum Hill’s Michelin-starred restaurant moved to the Brooklyn Museum this past fall—which means that art-loving New Yorkers can now browse works by Rothko, Rockwell or (in an exhibit through August 10, 2014) Ai Weiwei before settling in for a meal of celery root soup and roasted squab.
Although each establishment offers an entirely different experience, they all share a common respect and admiration for the controlled chaos of New York City. Each could be a microcosm for the schizophrenic metropolis that they call home. At Baby’s All Right, chef Murray aims to capture the best aspects of New York by bringing together multiple cultural spheres under one roof. After all, he points out, in both food and in art, “Influences are always coming from those before you, and you’re borrowing from everybody else.” Not only do all of these venues borrow from the past, but they borrow from the present—and they borrow exceptionally well.