Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rye House - Respect the Mighty Pittsburgh-Style Sandwich

Rye House - 11 West 17th Street, New York NY 10011
F/V train to 14th Street, N/W/R/4/5/6/L train to 14th Street/Union Square

My co-workers and I did lunch at a fun new bar-eatery in the Flatiron/Union Square area called Rye House.  What drew me in was their menu of hefty foods such as Pittsburgh-style sandwiches, famous for being loaded with fries and cole slaw.  Naturally, a lover of these ingredients, and all sorts of carbs in general, this place was just what I needed to fill my belly on a cold day.

First impressions of Rye House are that it's more a bar than a restaurant.  But don't be fooled because as you walk towards the back, you'll see a dimly lit, spacious dining room with rustic wooden tables and even a couple of comfortable-looking booths.

I like that the decor is simple but sleek and modern at the same time.  Natural and slightly unfinished wood furnishings and industrial-looking light fixtures deck the space.  Tables are set with good, strong silverware and I like that they give you real linens instead of flimsy paper napkins.  The overall vibe is casual yet high quality, a perfect atmosphere for lunch with nice co-workers.

Although Rye House boasts an impressive beer and cocktail list, we only tried the food this time around.  Deciding to share a couple of small plates, getting our own entrees and once again splitting dessert, we got a good feel for their cuisine.

Starters - We went for three different starters including the sloppy joe sliders, the fried pickles and Mama's fried Mac n' Cheese.  The sliders were my favorite, as they contained good quality beef (kobe) and tangy pickled jalapenos in a really delicious brioche bun.  The bread was my most beloved component, elevating it above an ordinary sloppy joe.

The fried pickles were good but didn't stand a chance next to Sweet Afton's dumpling-ey version, which contained a more doughy exterior versus Rye House's thin, crumbly crust.  While they were tasty, I wouldn't get them again.  Can't say much about the fried Mac n' Cheese since I didn't try it, but my co-workers weren't impressed.  They said they prefer a more traditional version without the fried crust.

Entrees - Three of us ordered the Pittsburgh sandwich with grilled andouille sausage, fries and cole slaw in it while one person got the chili and another chose the drunken mussels. 

All I have to say is that our sandwich ruled supreme! Served on soft rye bread, it gave the senses an explosion of flavor including spicy smoke from the sausage, crunchy tang from the cole slaw and a salty starch from the fries.  It was like a complete meal in one bite and I enjoyed every minute.  My friends loved it too and couldn't believe how filling it was.  Although I scarfed the whole thing down, I really didn't need an appetizer and next time around I'll skip it.

The other two dishes were OK but mediocre at best.  The mussels lacked flavor and the quality wasn't the best I've seen - they fell apart easily and got kind of slimy.

Dessert - This was a completely unnecessary course but we went for it anyway.  Next time, I'd stay away, as this isn't their strong point. 

We ordered the Mint Julep ice cream sundae and the ice cream sandwich.  The sundae was good but a bit too alcoholey for my liking.  There were too many nuts on top - instead, I'd prefer it if they were interspersed throughout.  

The ice cream sandwich was unremarkable with a hard cookie exterior - not much else to say there.  Pass...

Service and Cost:
This is an area in which Rye House impressed.  We loved our waitress--she was a spunky Australian woman with a hunger for life (and good food).  I appreciated that she was very frank about everything and recommended her personal favorites.  She wasn't afraid to tell us when she didn't like something and I had to give her props for that - it was gutsy.

Costs are moderate.  While our lunch ended up costing a lot (in my opinion at least), next time around I'd order more conservatively, skipping appetizers and dessert.

Apps: $6-$16
Entrees: $8-$12
Sides: $5
Dessert - $7

2 Mmmms

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