Saturday, February 28, 2009

Requiem For A Restaurant

The absolute best part of living in Manhattan is the preponderance of awesome things within walking distance from your apartment. I have accounts with two different banks, both of whom have a location within two blocks from my place. We have two grocery stores within the same distance. I can walk to work in just about the time it takes to listen to Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I & II, and Central Park is under 5 minutes away. I've mentioned the Beacon and Fairway, both of which I wouldn't swap for another theater/grocery store.

Another thing that makes the location of our apartment so perfect is (was) Westside Brewing Co. When we first moved down here, we used to go there every Sunday night in addition to the impromptu visits during the week. If I had anyone came into town, it was the first place I thought to bring them.

I would place their wings in my top five of all time, with some serious consideration for the #1 spot. I'm probably biased, but trust me, these were not your ordinary orangey, fake-looking, limp dick wings you get at TGIFriday's. The sauce wasn't sweet like a BBQ and didn't really have a buffalo twang. They never detailed any of the ingredients on the menu, and I'm not much of a gourmand, so if you've never had the pleasure, you are going to have to use your imagination a little bit. They were a deep maroon color, subtly smoky, hot, but not lingering, and... did I mention they were fucking amazing?

Westside stopped brewing their own beer long before I moved down to the city, but they kept a rotating selection of ten taps to make up for that fact. They centered on local brews like Captain Lawrence, Chelsea and Blue Point, but also drew from across and the country and world. Last time I was there, they had Green Flash Le Freak on tap and around Easter-time last year they had an incredible Rauchbier (smoked beer) from Germany.

The had a pretty fervent staff turnover, but managed to keep a cute girl hostessing with remarkable consistency. One time Sampson and I walked in, and were making some offhand comment about work, and the cutest of the hostesses smiles and says "Are you guys in the movie industry?" Sampson immediately goes "Yeah, I'm a director and he is a producer". Her eyes light right up, so we had to let her down gently. She's was like, "Oh, it seems like everyone is in the movie business around here". After we sat down, I went to Sampson, "They aren't really in the movie business sweetie, they just want to have sex with you".

The place wasn't without it's faults. For one, it was closed for strange reasons way too often. Too many times someone came into town and wanted a fairly cheap, relaxed meal, I couldn't wait to take them to WSBC. I would hype up the wings and promise I could pick them out a great beer, only to roll up to the place and see a note scrawled on the door explaining some strange circumstance which precluding them from being open.

About a year and a half ago construction began on The Harrison, which took up most of the block between 76th and 77th & Amsterdam and Broadway. It was well boarded off, but through the slats, you could catch a glimpse of the cavernous void that claimed Amsterdam Billiards.

One night I walked in to the bathroom and in the corner underneath the urinal there was a gigantic hole, looking right down into a 25 foot deep rubble-filled pit. That must have violated the health code, because two nights later they embarked a a little hiatus for a month or two.

In the three years we've been going there, they never changed their menu. It's not like it diverted us from stopping by, but as a place that had a pretty large regular customer base, you'd think they'd have wanted to switch it up a little bit.

It is also extremely close to The Beacon and it gets a lot of spillover, which can be annoying if you want to get a seat at the bar. They occasionally even play the music of the act that is on that night. One night Kelly Clarkston was in town and we got sat down right next to a table full of pre-teen girls who knew the words to every single song, and weren't afraid to sing along at full roar.

Sometime last year, our friend Ian was around and we popped into Westside to grab some food. We got the wings (as always) I ordered a Hawaiian pizza, Sampson got a burger and Ian got the tuna melt. The pizza always takes longer to begin with, but at one point I glanced over my shoulder and happen to spot the our waitress and my pizza in mid-air headed towards an inevitable demise.

She didn't think we saw it happen and about two minutes later, after the mess had been cleaned up, she came over and said "Sorry guys, your food will be up in like 5 minutes. Want another beer?" We didn't feel like correcting her just yet, and let it slide.

She eventually brought us over the food and as she's sliding the pizza in front of me, I go, "Round two on this one, huh?" She stopped for a second and goes, "Yeah, I was kinda hoping you guys didn't see that". She was cute and we laughed it off. When Ian got terrible food poisoning an hour later, he wasn't laughing. There's not way of telling, but I'm pretty sure the 20 minutes that tuna melt spent under the lamps didn't help. That didn't stop us from going back either.

The allure was obviously the beers, for me personally. It was always crowded, so I don't think I'm alone in that respect. They absolutely always had a high quality Double IPA on tap, whose hoppy character was an unlikely match for the wings. Ten beers every week allows for some pretty serious breadth and they did a pretty good job of managing the selection.

I really don't go out to dinner than much because we have a grill and SeamlessWeb (and I have no money), so I'm probably the last person who is going to get sentimental about an eatery closing it's doors. Evelyn Lounge... now that was a tragedy. But wow, this sucks a fucking lot. I was moving my car the other night, saw the papered up windows and went out of my typical loop so I could email Sampson a picture with the caption "RIP Westside Brew Co." from my iPhone.

It's not all doom and gloom though. I was trawling the message boards over at Beer Advocate and found this little gem:
I have an infallible source telling me this place will be re-opened under new management in a few weeks. And by new management, I mean guys who know how to run an outstanding beer bar. UWSers should be psyched. More to follow.
It's a message board, so I'm not going to get my hopes up, but please, please, please almighty Beer Gods, get something in there soon. It's not fair. I'm dying inside.


I just went out to take the daytime pictures above and as I was standing there, a guy with one of those chest baby pouch/carriers and his wife walk up. The dude was probably in his 30's and with a forlorn look on his face he said "It's like, closed, man."