Bourbon Street Bar & Grille
346 West 46th Street (between 8th and 9th Aves.)
Open Sunday-Wednesday, 11am-1am, and Thursday-Saturday from 11 am-2am. Brunch is available Saturday and Sunday from 11am-4pm. Website: www.bourbonny.com.
Review By Nancy Walman
Bourbon Street Bar and Grille Brings a New Orleans State of Mind to New York’s Restaurant Row. Just two months old, Bourbon Street Bar and Grille is a tribute to Old New Orleans that also brings back some of the glory of the old Restaurant Row. With striking attention to detail and the best food and beverage that “N’Awlins” has to offer. T
he festive restaurant recreates the experience of the French Quarter, in a century-old building retrofitted into a perfect replica of a Bourbon Street establishment, the New Orleans native Executive Chef Tommy Hines takes charge of the authentic Cajun and Creole menu, with service and beverage overseen by General Manager Mehmet Yolac, ably assisted by the award-winning mixologist Boyd Allen.
From the moment you approach the building and see the wrought iron railings on the multi-level building, the seating on the outdoor slate-tiled front patio (a far cry from a table on the sidewalk), the “alligator butler” mascot, the gas-burning lanterns, and the outdoor balcony seating overlooking the street on the second floor, you feel like you’ve landed in the center of New Orleans. To create the bi-level restaurant, the owners conserved some of the original bricks and doors of the centuries’ old building, while also adding reflections of Louisiana with chandeliers that evoke Mardi Gras beads, black checkerboard floors, and a Fleur de lis motif that extends from the hand-painted walls to the details on the tobacco colored-dining room chairs and other locations guests will enjoy discovering for themselves.
The ground level is dedicated to the bar and lounge. In the front of the room, high-topped bar level tables in intimate booths or communal tables that are suitable for large parties are a perfect place for casual dining, cocktails and snacks. In the back of the large room, the lounge, furnished with comfortable couches and low tables, is designed to make you feel like you’ve stepped into one of the outdoor gardens of the French Quarter through the well-placed arrangement of reclaimed stained glass windows and an arched wooden doorway that seems to lead you back inside. Upstairs, there’s another outdoor patio in the back, a cozy service bar with a display of rare bourbons, and an elegant dining room, designed for a formal dining experience.
Executive Chef Tommy Hines cuisine represents the best of Louisiana Cajun and Creole cuisine. Tommy began his culinary career at a young age apprenticing with the famous Brennan restaurateurs. Starting at the Palace Café, Tommy studied under renowned chefs Dickie Brennan, Gus Martin, and Darin Nesbit. Appointed to be one of the youngest Sous Chefs in the Palace Café in the company’s history, one year later he was asked to take command of the kitchen at Palace Café’s sister restaurant Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. During Tommy’s tenure, it was named one of the Top Ten steakhouses in the United States.
After Hurricane Katrina, Tommy relocated to Atlanta briefly to work with the Buckhead Restaurant Group. But then, encouraged by his mentors, Tommy moved to New York.
At Bourbon Street Bar and Grille he brings his experience and knowledge of fine cuisine to New York City’s trendy and fast-paced environment without forgetting the important lessons of Southern hospitality and the power of sophisticated comfort food.
Chef Hines is equally skilled with the casual street food of New Orleans, the home cooking of his mother, and his own fine dining (and lightened) versions of Louisiana cooking. The menu downstairs focuses on casual dining, featuring the icons of Louisiana: Po’Boy sandwiches with fried oyster, shrimp or catfish (our favorite) or the ultimate Italian cold cut sandwich, the Muffalata, all served on bread specially made to Chef Hines’s specifications to replicate the special bread with soft exterior crust, tender crumb, recognizable by Louisiana natives as the real thing.
Hines is also the master of another New Orleans invention: Oysters Rockefeller, oven-roasted Gulf oysters, spinach, bacon Parmesan cheese and Pernod. But Hines has his own invention, too, inspired by his background. For example, for the appetizer “Buffalo” Alligator, he applies the flavors of Buffalo wings to the traditional alligator meat of Louisiana. He marinates strips of alligator in butter milk, flash fries it, then surrounds it with a moat of spicy sauce and blue cheese cream, accompanied by julienned carrots and celeriac (instead of celery). Another favorite is the classic Turtle Soup, a hearty blend of 75% ground turtle meat (with veal to balance it out) in a slightly spicy broth. (Don’t be afraid to try it!) Also magical was an earthy seafood gumbo. To keep the menu true to its origins, Hines imports many products from Louisiana including turtle, alligator, Gulf oysters and shrimp, andouille sausage and pork tasso.
Many of the casual items are also available upstairs, but formal diners will be treated to some amazing options: New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp, jumbo head-on Gulf shrimp sautéed with Abita beer, Worcestershire, black pepper, butter, rosemary and lemon are huge, succulent and memorable. or the wonderfully satisfying French-influenced Roasted Chicken “Bonne Femme,” elegant comfort food at its best, a bone-in herb-roasted with baby carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms fingerlings and fresh herbs roasted chicken jus, it’s a great value. The highest quality dish, but without the price tag you might find at other fine dining establishments. Another one of Hines’s signature dishes is Bourbon Steak and Shrimp, his inventive version of surf and turf with a wonderful sweet, hot and tangy Creole seasoned shrimp, glazed with Bourbon-spiked chile and orange-juice sauce, paired with a 14 ounce New York Strip. We also adored a contemporary take on the traditional Chicken And Andouille Etouffee with peppers, onions and celery in a rich etouffee sauce served with 3 cheese grits.
Jazz Brunch will be sure to bring in the crowds. Each weekend, a live New Orleans jazz band will fill Bourbon Street with the cool, mellow sounds of the South, setting the mood for authentic New Orleans Pain Perdu (custardy French toast utilizing that special custom-made bread) or Crab Oscar, grilled asparagus and poached eggs topped with béarnaise sauce, or Veal Grillades and Grits, tender veal medallions sautéed with peppers and onions in a rich veal reduction with a side of classic Southern cornmeal grits enhances with andouille (spicy sausage) and white cheddar, and many other selections.
General Manager Mehmet Yolac not only insures the impeccable service(on our visit, manager Ian Montgomery was a real pro). but he is also responsible for the beverage program. He selected and oversees the beverage program including the bourbon list approximately 60 rare and special spirits, as well as the wine list, which though limited to 20 bottles, manages to offer something for everyone ranging from a world list including a Riesling, a Viognier, Chardonnays as well as a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Temperanillo. For guests in the formal dining room, Mehmet is prepared to suggest the best possible pairings of wines.
Like everything else, the cocktail list is top notch. Prepared by veteran mixologist Allen Boyd, you’ll find all the New Orleans classics as well as some inventive interpretations. But don’t expect an overly sweet, sickening Hurricane in a plastic cup. Boyd’s Hurricane is a well-balanced mixture of fresh passion fruit and orange juices with high quality light and dark rum and a touch of grenadine. His award-winning Bloody Mary is reason enough all by itself to come for brunch, but the carefully marinated garnishes with 15 ingredients, including wine-soaked cucumber, green olives, okra, haricot verts and a spiced rim, will change your perception of the cocktail. Boyd’s extra special Mango Martini is made with a special limited edition Absolut New Orleans vodka and mango puree prepared by the chef.
And could they even call it a New Orleans restaurant without hot from the fryer Beignet, those heavenly donuts doused in powdered sugar? If you haven’t already had enough bourbon, order the Bread Pudding made with raisins soaked in Early Times Bourbon or Bourbon Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel Sauce. Just in case you forgot another New Orleans favorite, finish off with a tribute to the famous sugary pecan praline with Creole Cream Cheese Cheesecake with praline sauce.
Perfect after the theater, this is a real discovery and certainly one of our top recommendations for New York’s Restaurant Row.
General Manager Mehmet Yolac is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a degree in International Restaurant and Hotel Management. His experience with fine dining includes management positions at the Essex House (Café Botanica and Alain Ducasse). He also managed a team of fifty employees in the largest hotel in New York City (the Hilton) with seven food and beverage units including casual and fine dining. Embarking on his new role as General Manager with Bourbon Street Bar and Grille, Mehmet’s passion is ignited with the opportunity he has accepted to manage a unique, one of a kind 250-seat restaurant on the renowned Restaurant Row in New York City.