We have mixed feelings toward secret places. On the one hand, we like being able to tell people about places they don’t know about. It’s good for our self-esteem. But we also feel dumb looking for hidden entrances, and the employees at these kinds of places tend to act like they’re doing us a favor by allowing us inside. Fortunately, 2nd Floor Bar & Essen isn’t uptight or difficult to get into, and it earns several bonus points for serving food we’d like to eat daily.
2nd Floor Bar & Essen is a bar from the same people behind 2nd Ave Deli (a classic NYC mini-chain), and it’s located above their location on the Upper East Side. It’s a great spot for drinks and a light meal, and it’s perfect for when you need someplace fun in this neighborhood, but aren’t feeling masochistic enough to go to The Penrose. Seeing as how the lights stay dim and John Mayer occasionally makes a weirdly not-unwelcome appearance on the soundtrack, it’s pretty ideal for date night as well.
To get here, you enter through a door on 75th Street marked with a little neon sign, then head up a flight of stairs to a space that looks like a private club from the 1920s. It has low ceilings and antique light fixtures, and it seems like the kind of place that should have a password, a dress code, and a host who knows your credit score just by looking at you. But it’s laid-back and unpretentious, and it isn’t tough to get a reservation - which is strange, because the food here makes other bars look lazy.
The menu is a mix of small plates inspired by Jewish deli classics, like gefilte croquettes, pastrami burgers, and pigs in a blanket that are seasoned like everything bagels. You can also get some creamy deviled eggs topped with pastrami, as well as some excellent blintzes stuffed with shredded duck. But our favorite things here are the meat-heavy sandwiches from the deli downstairs, which are only available during Happy Hour.
As far as we know, this the only semi-hidden bar where you can show up without a reservation, grab a seat, and eat a messy corned beef sandwich while you drink a cocktail with absinthe and Japanese whisky. It’s worth checking out the next time you find yourself between Central Park and the East River, and it’s also a little bit of a secret at the moment. So if you need to impress someone and maybe gain a little self-esteem that’ll come in handy the next time you accidentally drool on yourself at work, suggest 2nd Ave Bar & Essen.
This is listed as deviled eggs on the menu, but it’s actually just one egg (split in half). And it’s somehow still worth $8. The crispy pastrami is partially responsible for this, but these are also bigger and creamier than most other deviled eggs we’ve encountered.
Slices of hot dog baked in puff pastry. Factor in the everything bagel seasoning sprinkled around the outside, and you have yourself a very nice snack you might try to recreate the next time you get home at 2am on a Saturday.
Every blintz should come stuffed with duck. And all duck should be as tender as the duck in these blintzes. At the very least, get one order for every three people at your table.
Half of these dumplings are fried, and the other half come in a little pot with a broth we’d like to drink out of a Big Gulp-sized cup with a straw. Other than the broth, this dish isn’t mind-blowing, and, while these dumplings are still solid, your money is better spent elsewhere.
The sandwiches from the deli downstairs are only available during Happy Hour, and they make for a very compelling reason to get here before 7pm. For $19, you get a cocktail and half sandwich, and we suggest the corned beef, which falls apart once it comes into contact with your mouth.
The sauce is a little sweet, but if you like stuffed cabbage, go for it. And if you don’t like stuffed cabbage, we aren’t sure why you’re reading this.