In devising the menu for Gus and Gabriel, Michael Psilakis may have been inspired by This Is Why You’re Fat, a popular blog chronicling the extremes of American gluttony. The uptown pub offers pleasures so guilty, you may be inclined to slip in surreptitiously wearing a trench coat and hat. The chef, best known for bringing Greek cuisine into the 21st century, filters the fast-food canon through a diabolical lens.
The restaurant, which took over the space vacated by Kefi, doesn’t look like much. The decor, featuring Tiffany-style lamps and a chintzy suit of armor, screams college-town dive (as do the waiters in backward baseball caps). But the place fills a void in New York, offering fatty foods rarely encountered outside the Midwest. Much of it is delicious, and nearly all of it is obscene.
Psilakis, who seems to be having an awfully good time, piles on fried stuff and cheese wherever he can. And just about everything—from the pickles and slaw to the relish and dogs—is made in-house from scratch.
His Mexi Mac-and-Cheese embodies the restaurant’s more-is-more spirit, heaping the toppings for nachos (sour cream, guacamole, pulled pork and tomatillo salsa) onto a generous bowl of cheddar-sauced macaroni. The resulting gooey, cheesy, meaty mess—pure stoner genius—is as disturbing as it is delicious. “Tater tots,” a perilously filling predinner “beer snack,” are more like mini croquettes, filled with cheese and pork, and paired with spicy barbecue sauce and white cheddar fondue.
Prices are low and portions enormous, even by the elastic-waistband standards of Middle America. A French-dip sandwich with caramelized onions, melted Gruyre and slow-roasted brisket might be a suitable snack for a WWE wrestler, but for anyone else it’s dinner for two.
Even in a city crowded with chef-driven burgers and hot dogs, Psilakis finds a tasty new approach. Going for excess over extravagance, he piles bacon, Gruyre, a fried egg, onion rings, romaine hearts, and a roasted tomato onto his most daunting burger —a triumph stacked as high as a Dagwood. His house-made hot dogs, offered in pairs with fries and slaw, also come doused in the works: drowning in spicy beef chili or studded with all of the traditional Chicago accompaniments (sport peppers, pickles, tomato and relish).
Along with pub grub, the chef devotes a section of the menu to the nose-to-tail bits (sweetbreads, liver, marrow and tongue) that first got him noticed. His bone marrow starter, a steal at $9.95, is a barbaric portion of bones stacked like timber. If the marrow doesn’t kill you, the lemon butter drizzled on top and the garlic-toast shards served on the side will finish the job.
Desserts, including a nominally healthy apple toffee crisp with burnt-caramel and maple-walnut ice cream (hey, it’s got fruit in it), are just as excessive as everything else. Instead of trying to save room for sweets, sip dessert with your meal: A Southern Comfort--spiked peanut-butter and banana milk shake is thick and delicious—perfect for your inner fat kid.
Eat this: Mexi Mac-and-Cheese, “tater tots,” bone marrow, chili dogs, burger with onion rings and egg.
Drink this: Gus and Gabriel is all about beer and booze, with an emphasis on brown spirits. Unless you favor the swill you pounded in high school, you’ll skip the “Brown Bag Collection” (Milwaukee’s Best, Old English 800, served in paper bags) and order something more grown-up, like the Coney Island Brewing Company’s rich, hoppy Sword Swallower ($8).
Sit here: You don’t come here for the ambience—the room is dark and claustrophobic. The bar, with a view out the door, may be the most inviting spot.
Conversation piece: Michael Psilakis is a busy man. In addition to his four New York restaurants, the chef has a new spot in Miami, a cookbook coming out next month and projects in the works in his ancestral Greece.
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