The Vegetarian Option: Reunion Surf Bar
To enter Reunion Surf Bar, you have to follow the signs down a dark staircase, through a black curtain, and past a sign reading "No Admittance". When you finally enter the bar itself you are greeted by an enormous sign: SURF HELL'S KITCHEN. They take the surf motif seriously at Reunion; in my time there the bartender referred to me alternately as "My Man," and "My Friend" (though somehow never as "Brah") and praised my order as "Excellent". The food I found there was a step above typical bar food, and it too adheres to the theme. If I could offer one bit of advice when visiting Reunion, it would be this: go on a Tuesday.
Why Tuesday? Because on Tuesdays, until 8pm, all tacos are only $3 each (they are usually two for $11.95 or 3 for $14.95). And the tempura zucchini tacos (pictured at top) were wonderful. I became a vegetarian long before fish tacos became chic, and have thus never eaten one, but based on these vegetarian versions I can understand the appeal. The fried zucchini sat on thick, puffy, corn tortillas, with some raw veggies and an delicious, creamy sauce. I was mystified by the sauce at first; it tasted both familiar and foreign. Only be deconstructing the taco was I able to determine what it was -- both tartar sauce and guacamole. Why haven't I tasted this combination before? (I would like to point out that I only ordered two tacos, but when the rest of my food was delayed they gave me a third taco for free.)
Next up was the Veg Americain ($8.95), a pressed sandwich filled with french fries, cheese, and caramelized onions. As the name implies, Reunion serves a non-vegetarian version of this with meatballs on it, but I don't think this iteration suffers anything for the loss. The french fries themselves could have been crispier, but that was made up for by the crunchiness of the grilled bread. This sandwich is the perfect bar food; mostly starch, perfect for soaking up beer and cocktails.
The Shacked Cheese ($7.95) was more of a mixed bag. It's obviously a play on mozzarella sticks, a typical bar snack, in this case taken to an extreme level. The Shacked Cheese is describes as "cow's milk cheese, rolled up with sheep's milk cheese, mint and cilantro", which is then deep fried. I could certainly taste the tang of the sheep's milk cheese, and the cooling mint, but the other ingredients were lost in the mix. These cheese sticks are served with ranch dressing rather than marinara sauce, which I think we can agree is the right decision.
As Reunion Surf Bar is very close to Times Square, and is right near Restaurant Row, it seems to cater to the after-work drinking crowd. During my visit the place was packed and the music was loud; and yet the bartender was extremely gracious and friendly during my entire meal. When I first started writing the Vegetarian Option over a year ago, I was under the impression that most bars didn't serve decent vegetarian food. It's places like Reunion that make me re-think that bias.
Reunion Surf Bar
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.