Midtown Happy Hour: Yu Either like Chef Yu or Yu Don’t

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” posts 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.


This week I checked out Chef Yu in order to try their happy hour, but I was also really hungry so this wasn’t going to be just a liquid dinner. I showed up on the early side as their happy hour starts at 4pm (ends at 8pm). This isn’t your dirty Chinese take out joint. There are two levels of dining with a large back dining room for private parties. Seating is strictly table service and the lighting is dimmed down in the late afternoon to create a lounge feel.


I suffer from the same General Tso dependency that Zach does, it’s like an itch I have to scratch so of course I ordered it. I know what you’re saying, with the good Cantonese and Szechuan dishes at Chef Yu why would you order a ubiquitous Chinese dish? Well, some cravings can’t be dismissed. It’s an addiction I tell you!

Gen Tso

My steaming plate of Tso came with red and green peppers, carrots, baby corn, green onion and mushrooms. The dark meat chicken was in a generous pool of sweet sticky sauce. There was no discernible spiciness to it and the same went for the limp side salad that I’ve read from reviews is supposed to have a spicy dressing. It may be that my palate is a little too used to spicy food for this to register with me. I opted for fried rice on the side; in retrospect I regret this choice. The rice was forgettable and the edamame mixed in did not stand up to the frying. The poor legumes ended up dry and mealy. Next time around I will stick to Chef Yu’s more authentic dishes.

Now on to what we all came here for: the drinks! Chef Yu’s happy hour advertises $4 cocktails, wine and beer. I fully expected this to be a happy hour fail because a deal like this usually means very basic well drinks and Budweiser. My jaw just dropped when I saw the bar menu.

bar menu

Not only were there some decent beers included, but also the cocktail list had a whole slew of mixed drinks including some I’d almost forgotten about. When was the last time I had a Zombie or Texas Tea? They even have Brandy Alexander’s and Lychee Martinis. It was like a boozy reunion with some old friends.


I decided to get a Long Island Ice Tea for old times sake. It was well poured and came in a Collins glass with maybe too much ice but I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet.

Sure you’re not drinking Grey Goose, this isn’t expert mixology, and you can probably get a bigger, stronger LIIT at another bar, but that would be twice as much and you wouldn’t be able to order dumplings with it. Given that at most dive bars you will get a dirty look if you order a Manhattan or Gin Ricky, I’d say this is a deal you really can’t pass up. Bring a group of friends, share plates of noodles and Szechuan beef, and dare each other to sample the whole drink menu.

There’s no +/- to this review. Either you like Asian food or you don’t. Either you want to drink a wide assortment of cocktails for $4 or ya don’t. It’s that simple.

Chef Yu, 520 8th Ave (btw. 36+37th), 212-736-6150


  • RE: “This isn’t your dirty Chinese take out joint.”

    Well, thank GAWD for small favors. There are certainly enough of the dirty kind to go around (even here in the D.C./Baltimore area).

    Did I ever tell you about the joint in Washington state where we saw dogs being butchered in the kitchen?

  • DocChuck— Lies made Baby Jesus cry.

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    A cat/dog in the Chinese restaurant joke… BY GAWD HOW ORIGINAL!

  • I been to this joint plenty of times. Glad they inally got a spotlight on them.

    The food is okay at best (smaller portioned than any other Chinatown fare/American takeout so don’t expect to be stuffed) and their cocktails aren’t strong. Very nice ambience though and good date spot…plus your date won’t see you pigging out or get sloppy drunk ;)

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    Great, small portions of crap food and watered down drinks, sign me up.


  • Senor Jeffe (aka bossman)
    I actually didn’t finish my food, I got full. I didn’t think the drinks were watered down, just not strong.. most definitely better then some of the drinks I’ve had around town for the same price.

  • I think Chinese food in general has fallen behind other ethnic cuisines such as indian and korean & Thai in terms of quality and consistancy.

  • I think you’re correct, ‘McBagel’ even though you can’t spell “consistency.”

    Chinese food sucks, it has ALWAYS sucked, but it was ‘trendy’, it was ‘cool’, it was the ‘thing to be seen doing’, it was all bullshit.

    Chinese food is great — for chinese.

    I think Americans should pay more attention to Korean food and to Thai food. These people were (and are) FAR better attuned to fine cuisine than the chinese ever were, or ever will be.

    Chinese food is a lot like chinese products — INFERIOR at every level.

    But then, that’s just MY humble opinion, as an American who has been studying and sampling asian cuisine for nearly 60 years now.

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