Bar Gonzo (CLOSED)
Time Out says
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To be fair, we were a handful. Our group of seven asked the waiter for recommendations, and he said, “Raindrops on Roses is one of my favorite things.” We all burst into song and freaked him out—he had never heard of bright copper kettles or warm woolen mittens. He was just describing the bar’s artichoke-and-ricotta appetizer (sharp and succulent, an unexpectedly winsome duet). It was a weird start, but when you go to a place named for Hunter S. Thompson’s signature style of strange, the bizarre will happen.
A peacock-teal and Technicolor oasis on an otherwise antiseptic stretch of Hell’s Kitchen, Gonzo’s rosily lit patio has Cuban hacienda vibes and sweeping views of, ugh, the Lincoln Tunnel. Thompson too was a roller coaster of uppers and downers—not the best spirit animal for a bar.
When the cocktail Peacock in Hand arrived in a pineapple-shaped glass with an orchid garnish, we passed it around with gasps and gulps. It was an enthralling, captivating drink, with Campari, mescal and Tabasco writhing on the tongue like an unimaginably uninhibited and intimate threesome. It was liquid allure. But when we reordered a round, the Campari was too insistent in one cup, the Tabasco too bullying in another; we played a similar game of roulette with the sangria, which was either lifted by Bengali tea or smothered by vodka. The cocktail Hotel Nacional (rum-driven, of course) offered a consistently well-rounded, candy-coated finish while maintaining its grown-up sophistication. The Root Beer Manhattan, however, is an abomination, lacking bubbles, charisma and flavor; we dared each other to try more sips of it, but all demurred.
At least Gonzo is redeemed by its excellent food. The criminally amazing Carolina white shrimp (so charred yet so juicy!) with pickled papaya shares space with charred octopus skewers—bolstered by chorizo vinaigrette but overpriced at $17 for two pieces. Alas, the plantain chips are, surprisingly, a dud, seasoned meagerly with, as one drinking companion put it, “the ghost of ghost-pepper salt.”
With the crowd’s fedora-ble guys and “Woo!” gals, the spot seems very much like the kind of hostel bar in Barcelona or Bangkok that inspires anything-goes adventurism. But amid Hell’s Kitchen’s increasing gloss, Gonzo’s grit is more of a pre- or postgame choice. As with those faraway hostels, it’s best if you know where to find the afterparty.