A Texas-Inspired East Village Hangout
When they made Hayne Suthon, they broke the mold. A rare combination of savvy entrepreneur and party girl, the former tax attorney brought the spirit of her native New Orleans to New York’s downtown in the 1980s. Recently featured in the New York Post as one of New York City’s 10 Hottest Cougars (a successful worldly woman who is extremely attractive to decidedly sexy younger men), she has a head for business, a spirit for fun, and a supreme knack for creating a rollicking good time wherever she goes.
Hayne got the party started in 1986 with Cave Canem, a Roman-themed restaurant in a restored bathhouse—one of the first places to combine drinking, eating and partying in a single locale. In 1993, she opened Lucky Cheng’s, the world famous Asian restaurant where drag queens not only serve the food, but also offer up nightly cabarets. Like all her concepts, it’s a place where it’s impossible not to have fun. Ms. Suthon is a master at catering to large parties, groups of eight or more, a rarity in the cramped confines of most New York restaurants and bars.
Located in the space that until recently housed her ode to Hawaii, Waikiki Wally’s, her latest innovation, Marfa NYC is inspired by a West Texas artists’ community. To give the feeling of West Texas, noted chef Harun Shah (Raga, Death & Company) offers patrons a selection of Texas-inspired Tapas, all of which you can eat with your fingers.
The selection of small bites ranges from traditional, hearty dry rub barbecued baby back ribs that drip with Marfa’s special barbecue sauce to mini corndogs, a daintier and more adult-like version of the kid-friendly classic. You’ll also find piquant chipotle chicken wings small in size, but packing a powerhouse of flavor and fish tacos accompanied by homemade guacamole, various salsas, and a citrus-laden slaw that adds freshness and zing. “Shells on” spicy shrimp are a special treat, large and lusciously sweet on the inside, yet charged with a perfectly tempered finger-licking heat on the outside. Diners can order a la carte or select a Texas tapas platter designed for groups to share. Marfa appetizer platters are priced per person and range from El Cheapo (featuring four different appetizers) for $9 per person to the Big Texas Platter (featuring eight appetizers and a shot of house-infused flavored tequila!), which, at $18 per person, is quite the deal.
Heartier appetites and bigger budgets can opt for Big Bend Bites, larger entrees such as soul warming chicken pot pie, creamy and delicious comfort food with a flaky homemade crust (also available in a vegetarian version) or a warm bowl of Texas beef or vegetarian chili. There’s also a selection of Southern-fried specialties: mouthwatering crispy fried chicken, chicken fried steak, or fried catfish, each with a perfectly crispy coating that gives way to a tender and juicy cut. All the entrees are served with sumptuous side dishes such as sweet and savory baked beans and crunchy cabbage slaw, smooth, delectable yet homey mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach in generous portions. Mac and cheese, perfectly sauced with a silky blend of cheeses, breadcrumbs, and a punch of paprika, is a Roadside item (side dish) that you won’t want to miss.
For groups of eight or more, Marfa also offers a barbecue menu, a complete package for $27 per person. The Texas-sized meal includes a choice of two sides and three appetizers from the menu and an entrée of expertly prepared barbequed ribs, shrimp, pulled pork and saucy barbecued chicken. Other group menus can be ordered on request, including vegetarian or seafood menus or other group packages that can be designed to include open bar, pitchers of margaritas and Texas tapas.
Hip, urbane, but decidedly West Texas, the vast, rustic loft-like space hosts rotating art exhibits, inaugurated with paintings by Marfa stalwart, Boyd Elder, designer of Eagles album covers (the original artwork for one hangs on the wall at Marfa).
But perhaps the most artful feature of the food and beverage menu is the incredible cocktail list designed by Marshall Altier, a leading mixologist, well versed in both classic and modern cocktails. Marshall has been mentored by the innovative Eben Freeman at Tailor and brings his unique concoctions to the upscale Italian restaurant Insieme. The cocktail menu consists of reasonably priced drinks with out of this world house infused flavored tequilas that are all perfect paired with Marfa’s food.
Try the house Marfarita with grapefruit and Serrano chili infused tequila for an extra special kick and a perfect balance of flavors, or the transporting Lavender Daisy with lavender infused tequila, honey, fresh lime and peach bitters, it’s a sublime combination of champagne or the smokey combination of mezcal and bourbon in the Mezcal Old Pal Martini. Barflies can also opt for low budget beers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lone Star, Tecate and Corona. For the real skinflint, there’s the El Cheapo Special, a PBR with a shot of cheap liquor as a chaser.
Whether you come with a date or with a large group of friends, nibble on Texan tapas or go all out for the Big Bend bites, one thing is certain, with Hayne Suthon behind the enterprise, a good time will be had by all.
Marfa is located in the East Village at 101 East 2nd Street, and is open for dinner Monday-Friday from 6-11PM and on weekends from 6-11:30, with the bar staying open late.