From Park & Co. to P17 to Ace Eat Serve, a lot of my happy-hour adventures have taken place on East 17th Avenue. Coincidence? Conspiracy? Take a drive through Uptown and you'll see for yourself the many bustling patios and dining rooms, all filled with happy hours and their fans. And Beast + Bottle's version achieves the rare prize of being a vital addition to the restaurant's already lauded menu, one that might even teach you something new.
Local foods, curated wines, craft cocktails — the selling points of Beast + Bottle are nothing new. But after three years of operation, B+B doesn't have to sell itself with trends and buzzwords. Siblings Aileen and Paul Reilly have carved out a niche that attracts those in the know, and their happy hour is suitably impressive. The restaurant boasts that the menu, served Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m., changes daily depending on local producers' availability and the quirks of the kitchen — and that made me eager to see what goodies the kitchen was cooking up with September's harvest.
To get a taste for yourself, you have to arrive for the precious sixty minutes when the happy-hour menu is served, and then sit on the patio. You're exchanging the coziness of the dining room for the traffic of 17th, but you're gaining the fresh-printed happy-hour menu, which always includes a $4 draft, a $6 cocktail and wines and a few appetizers, always under $8. With what the bar calls Your Own Pear-sonal Jesus, you get a glass filled with pear liqueur, pear bitters, Wilderness vodka and lime juice; Crème de Violette gives the drink a milky shade of mauve. Raising a coupe glass to the tempting figure of Hamburger Mary's across the street, I sipped this electrifying cocktail and chewed on the violet blossom on top for a burst of field flavor.
The menu also promised "Calzone: ham, ricotta, red onion. $8," and that's exactly what I got. Each ingredient was distinguished in its own way, from the farm-fresh onion to the mild ham, and they were nestled in a tasty, blistered crust. For its next number, Beast + Bottle dove straight into brain-straining charcuterie with a fried headcheese plate ($5). Usually when I'm served offal, I expect to grimace and grunt a little, like I deserve a medal for swallowing something more challenging than a chicken tender. Not so here — the kitchen butchers its meat in-house, and these skull scrapings were breaded and fried so effectively, I was almost fooled, and immediately hooked once I cracked the heavily seasoned crust and got to the deliciously malformed goods inside.
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The hour was over soon, too soon, but I couldn't stop there. (See below.) Yes, this place is stingy with how it doles out happy hour, but generous in sharing Paul Reilly's work. (It also shares the work of others; I spotted many of B+B's favorite menus posted in the bathroom, from The Spotted Pig to Vesta Dipping Grill.) Here's to a happy hour with barely a drop of pretension, one that wears its influences on its chef whites. Give it a medal.
Perfect for: A well-rounded meal. Although entrees prices are reasonable, you and a few mates can create a fine dinner with happy hour and something from Andrea Wight's dessert bar. I received a beautiful trio of mini desserts ($9, or $3 each), all tied together with pretzels: buttery pretzel "dumplings," strawberry ice cream with a fruit gelée, and thick créme fraîche fudge with a pretzel crunch. All well constructed, all joyful. And to the culinary trend gods who introduced us to tiny desserts: Keep 'em coming. I'll forgive you for sliders.
Don't Miss: If you keep up with our Culinary Calendar, you know that the Beast throws some of the best dining events in the business. You just missed a Rolling Stones-themed dinner with dishes like the "Salt of the Earth" with salt-roasted beets and guanciale, and previous events have covered The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Paul, call me when you do a Steely Dan menu.