On a recent Tuesday night, the bar at Abe & Arthur’s was manic with cougars on the prowl and graying lotharios. We fought our way to the hostess stand, where a lithe trio would decide our seating fate. Would we be relegated upstairs to Siberia—far from the action on the second-floor balcony? Or escorted downstairs to the most deafening dining room in New York?
These are the prevailing concerns at Abe & Arthur’s, a Meatpacking meat market whose aging scenesters may have frequented its red-hot precursor, Lotus—another restaurant where the party came first and the food was an afterthought. Although there’s a marquee chef in the kitchen—Franklin Becker (Brasserie)—the guy could serve Steak-umms with Velveeta and the place would still be packed.
If you’re a spectator, Abe & Arthur’s can be as entertaining as a Dynasty rerun. There are more middle-aged men with baseball caps than at a Beastie Boys concert, and more plastic surgery than at an Anna Nicole Smith memorial. There are also legions of waiters and floor managers on patrol, ensuring no guest goes untended to. This nightly circus is a well-oiled machine. The owners, grandsons of Abe and Arthur themselves, are clubland pros who also run Tenjune.
It’s no surprise, then, that the food is as extraneous as the soundtrack, barely audible over the conversational roar. Becker offers bar snacks as well worn as a good pickup line. His bland meatballs arrive in a tart tomato rag with more character than the orbs it bathes. His tepid spinach-artichoke dip is a standard bowl of veggies and cheese, served with oily pita chips.
Fat cats in search of meatier sustenance can order an $88 porterhouse for two, presliced in a sizzling skillet. The tender and flavorful steak (all-natural Creekstone Farms beef), comes with a choice of sauces, including a commendable barnaise. Sides include a fine creamed spinach and that old warhorse, Parmesan-truffled fries.
Though he’s feeding a nightclub, Becker seems determined to prove his food cred, offering fancy-pants entres with compound butters and infused oils. But the kitchen—grappling with some 200 covers at once—is not up to the task. Seared yellowfin tuna (with bitter smears of miso butter) arrives lukewarm. Grotesquely huge scallops balancing foie gras nuggets are salty as a pretzel.
Skipping entres may leave you more limber for banquette dancing in the basement (yes, it’s that kind of place). But a sugar rush won’t slow you down—soft chocolate cookies and peanut butter bars with Guinness milk shakes are great for a group of Real Housewives out for a night on the town, while a contraption holding warm ricotta beignets is better for two.
Regardless of what’s coming out of the kitchen, right now Abe & Arthur’s is basking in the adulation of the scene-chasing hordes. As one Gossip Girl actress exclaimed as she walked through the door, “Holy fucking shit, this place is crowded.”
Drink this: The potent mixed drinks include the Allen Poe ($14), an oversize martini glass of bourbon mellowed with maple syrup.
Eat this: Porterhouse steak, creamed spinach, Parmesan-truffled fries, doughnut “carnival” for two
Sit here: Although the real action is in the ground-floor dining room, you’ll need to escape upstairs if you want to hear yourself think.
Conversation piece: Operating clubs has given the nightlife collective behind Abe & Arthur’s the juice to draw the occasional A-list celeb—like Karolina Kurkova and Russell Simmons—and get sightings into Page Six.