4 World Financial Center at Vesey St (212-285-1500). Subway: A, C, 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St; E to World Trade Center. 11:30am--midnight. Average main course: $15.
The new, supersized downtown branch of this venerable Manhattan tavern feels like a trial run for extending the brand to malls across America. Everything about the place smacks of a chain in the making: the spiffy logo, the electric lights modeled on turn-of-the-20th-century gas lamps, the framed frayed maps and news clippings, the old scuffed New York tile. Even the original’s enormous antique urinals have been reproduced inside the men’s room. Yes, the new P.J. Clarke’s is all about volume—big place, big appetites, big prices. Workers from offices in the higher floors of this giant skyscraper pop in for P.J.’s famed barnaise-sauced burger, a rich, messy carbon copy of the classic. The after-work hordes cram into the bar area between 5 and 9pm; bankers have no trouble blowing their bonuses on fine wine and pricey steaks. Once you get past the predictability of it all, the experience can be surprisingly charming. The nicely charred rib eye ($36) we tried had a crusty outside, a juicy interior and an excessive, thoroughly delicious side of creamed spinach. Luxurious types (and seafood fans) can pick at fine raw-bar platters of oysters and clams and then feast on exorbitant lobster (pictured): $65 gets you two pounds of sweet and tender broiled crustacean with drawn butter. Come dessert, the waiter might push the chocolate-chip souffl. Take his suggestion and imagine you’re eating a warm chocolate-chip cookie with a spoon. It’s a simple, vaguely juvenile joy—like the spin-off itself.—TONY