Midtown Happy Hour: Vodka Shots & Nipple Twists at the Russian Vodka Room
If you like to eat, chances are you like to drink (read: a lot of you are freakin’ lushes), so I thought maybe it was time to introduce a happy hour column to the site. Every week, our Happy Hour Correspondent “Mamacita” will post about a different bar in Midtown that fits the Midtown Lunch mentality: unhealthy food, not lame (unless it’s lame in a cool way), and most importantly… cheap.
I was having a hard time picking a place for this week’s ML Happy Hour until my friend Marrie suggested Russian Vodka Room (RVR) and their $3.50 happy hour of house made infused vodkas, $5 cosmos and $4 beers. Not only that, but a quick perusal of “Yelp” reviews garnered this recent gem:
“I’m not sure if you have to be Russian to appreciate this joint or what. Or British? there were some 50 something British folks getting sauced and raunchily flirting with each other right next to my date and I. One of these Englishmen actually stole my seat at the bar while i stood up 2 inches away from it! I witnessed another pinching the nipple of a gentlewoman through her fishnet top….”
Well I guess I better find out how classy this place really is! I put a call out to my only Russian-speaking friend Chandra and we headed over with some of our other pals. Happy hour is from 4 to 7pm and what we encountered was a dark, moody bar with a decidedly Russian feel and lovely waitresses quickly serving up some of midtown’s most interesting vodka shots.
On the table were tall shots of garlic pepper & dill, horseradish, peach & apricot, ginger, apple pomegranate, and wild blueberry. The garlic was intense, like biting into raw garlic. Likewise the horseradish was also sharp and pungent. I could see these being great in a bloody mary, but for sipping they were much too harsh for me. The pomegranate shot was very subtle to the point of tasting basically like plain vodka. The blueberry was good and the ginger was overall my favorite.
Some of the infusions have an artificial flavor despite the glass jugs of vodka and fruit on the shelf testifying otherwise. You can also order plain vodka shots and that’s a good call after you try your first infusions.
For food we ordered pickled herring with Russian style potatoes ($7.75), gravlax, Swedish cured salmon with dill, with draniki ($16.50), duck liver pate ($12.75), and a Russian version of kielbasa, with potatoes and hot peppers ($12.75).
While our party ordered several dishes, most over the ML limit, we unfortunately found them all unexceptional. Hell, for $16.50 I want my damn gravlax to actually taste like freshly cured salmon and the latkes to be more crispy potato than just flour and oil. So basically the food is a waste of your money- stick to the booze. The atmosphere and happy hour specials are really why you come to RVR. This bar is seedy and dark like a good KGB hang out should be. The back room has “reserved” signs on the tables that are obviously for the true Russian regulars.
Did I forget to mention it’s a piano bar? Appropriately, an old grey haired man is playing painfully bad melodies on the ivory keys. To top off the amusement the owner is a bit sleazy and tends to grip the female bartenders like he’s their pimp. I could see this as a great place to drink shots and beers after work and revel in the completely tourist free and delightfully entertaining atmosphere. Nostrovia!!
- Great happy hour with interesting vodka infusions, cheap beer and strong cosmos
- The kind of place where given any night you can find some interesting regulars
- Attentive and attractive bartenders+ Humorously bad piano playing
- Some real local characters
- Food is overpriced, small and bland
- They have a full bar, but only the beer and vodka is at happy hour
- Bad piano playing
- Mostly older (45+) couples and men (except the female bartenders)
- Would probably offend most upright citizens
Russian Vodka Room, 265 W. 52 St. (btw. B’way+8th ave), 212-307-5835
Post & Photos by “Mamacita”