I will admit it—I've been afraid to go to Minetta Tavern since it opened. I yearned for their highly touted Black Label Burger but heard such ridiculous stories about how difficult it was to get in that I was scared away. But upon hearing that they were making great cocktails—both classic and their own creations—it was time to get over my fear.
In getting into restaurants that are in high demand, it's nearly always easiest to dine alone at the bar. So, on a recent Monday at 8:30 p.m., despite the prime dinner hour, I was able to score a seat relatively quickly.
Minetta is a thoughtfully restored Keith McNally reincarnation of the original restaurant that opened in the space in the 1930s. It feels like a step back in time, with a black-and-white tile floor, leather banquettes, and wood-paneled walls adorned with caricatures and photos of the era's notables. The bar is warm and welcoming, but the only downside of dining alone is that you can only taste a tiny portion of the menu.
Enzo Lim, my bartender that night, brokered a deal for me, enlisting a gentleman sitting nearby to swap half of his Minetta burger for half of my Black Label, so I could try both. It was a win-win. Lim also served up some elegant cocktails. The house cocktails were created by Greg Seider, who is also co-owner of Summit in the East Village. Seider's Ginger in the Rye is an invigorating and refreshing drink where the spiciness of the rye plays well with the zing of the ginger beer. Lime adds a tangy punch, while the absinthe lends an unexpected dimension to the drink. The version I had at Minetta was garnished with a huge slice of ginger, which emphasized the ginger aroma. The recipe is all yours, after the jump.
Ginger in the Rye
2 lime wedges
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
2 bar spoons demerara sugar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 1/2 ounces Rittenhouse rye
1/4 ounce La Fee absinthe
Muddle the lime wedges and lime juice with with the sugar, then add the two dashes of bitters, rye, and absinthe. Shake with ice and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Top with ginger beer. From Greg Seider and Francis Harris of Chase and Speakman.