It has been a long week, highlighted by a lunch with a friend of a friend. We met at a midtown ramen joint and made chit chat. Early on “they” (being as vague as possible to protect the challenged) asked what I did for a living. I said ‘herd cats’. They said ‘excuse me’ – so I repeated myself. They still didn’t understand. I actually found myself explaining what the metaphor meant to an adult who was apparently unfamiliar with key concepts of the english language (did not help to improve my image of bankers…). I had the sinking feeling that this was going to be a very long hour and made a mental note that my friend who had arranged this would be meeting me at Sweet Afton to buy me several Dirty Pickle Martinis next week.
Walking away from lunch (far, far away) I decided it was time for a serious self-date where awkward conversation isn’t a possibility. Given the heat, I decided on drinks and a movie and a movable feast of snacks. As a member of the Museum of the Moving Image I already knew that I was going there for a 70s classic.
First stop – Astor Room. My mood enhancers of choice were a Central Coast Chardonnay and half a dozen oysters – kumamoto, humboldt bay and flower. While I await the shucker, I checked out the menu. It seems essentially unchanged since it opened. Classic supper club fare; iceberg wedge, chicken pot pie, beef wellington, burger, salmon, scallops and etc. The cocktail menu looks solid – divided between classics and seasonals – whenever I’ve been here in the past I never had a complaint about the cocktails.
The couple (on date or just friends – I couldn’t decide) next to me were arguing about how romantic relationships are represented in 70s movies. I considered moving much further down the bar. They had apparently just seen another 70s classic at the museum. Their conversation was getting a little tense – perhaps even a little awkward. So being a man of a certain age the guy smartly changed the subject and asked about her new shoes. The rest of the bar was basically full with movie geeks both the hipster version and the old school variety and folks associated with Kaufman Astoria or Silver Cup.
I’m an oyster purist and usually skip the condiments and just use a tiny squeeze of lemon but in the interest of research I tried the mignonette (too much shallot for me) and the cocktail (surprisingly good). Oysters were lovely and fresh.
Up next I order the crab cake with roasted corn, leeks and ‘crab nage’. I wonder how many times a night the servers have to explain that. While watching a silent Charlie Chaplin film and waiting for my crab cake, a guy sits down next to me at the bar and orders a kettle one martini with no vermouth and no ‘fruit’. We get to talking about how we both often have dinner out alone and trade stories about our experiences. He’s a bit older than me and offers up 2 or 3 places where he doesn’t think a ‘lady’ should go alone. I don’t tell him that I’d been to all 3 alone and that one is a favorite watering hole. I do however quickly email myself to remember to talk to the We Heart Astorians about a mid-summer special on dive bars with good a/c and TVs.
The crab cake is delicious – big pieces of crab on a bed of corn and tomato topped with fried onions. So good. I have plenty of time before the movie and have a second glass – this time I try the sauvignon blanc which is a nice match for the crab. I am pleased that there isn’t some kind of cream sauce drizzled all over it. Served this way, I can actually taste the crab. My wine is gone and the guy next to me seems to be getting quite close to offering to ‘prove’ he is right and I am wrong about a particular neighborhood restaurant by offering to take me there… before it gets awkward I stroll off to the movie contemplating my post-film snack.
Leaving the Museum I see its slider happy hour at 5 Napkin! Done and done. I go for the items that seem the least likely to be good – the veggie slider and the turkey meatball slider. I’m no longer a huge beer drinker although the list looks good and instead I get a glass of cabernet sauvignon. While I drank my wine, I ponder suggesting that 5 Napkin hire an acoustical engineer. Covering most of the space with ceramic tiles has resulted in what can only be described as ‘mad loud’. Even the two pudgy goofy straight guys next me have to lean awkwardly close to yell at each other. Just as one of the guys leans my way and tries to introduce himself my food arrives. The turkey slider has a sweet pepper topping which is tangy and pleasantly messy. The veggie slider isn’t one of those awful sawdust pucks but moist and flavorful. I really shouldn’t ignore this place as much as I do because of my Astoria burger joint ubiquity fatigue. Maybe I’ll give it another go when I’m back at the Museum the end of the month when they are showing ‘Vertigo’ & ‘To Catch a Thief’.