Midtown Happy Hour: Vander Bar’s Wing Deal is the Best I’ve Found

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 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.

O Glorious Day. I’ve found a happy hour with not just decent, but GOOD deals… maybe even bleeding into the territory of awesome deals (for Midtown)… right around the corner from my office and mere steps away from Grand Central Station. This mythical place I speak of is called Vander Bar (45th and Vanderbilt) in the Roosevelt Hotel.

How do Midtown Lunchers not know about these amazing speacials already? I think, in part, because even though the happy hour boasts dive prices, Vander Bar is disguised as a lame, highly overpriced bar. But it’s not what you would expect at all. It’s actually pretty awesome. High praise, high praise for Vander Bar!

How did I find out about it? Although we noted a lunch special there in 2010, I didn’t know about Vander Bar until I passed by it months ago on a Midtown Lunch food outing. Its location was convenient for me, but I kept putting it off because my expectations were low. The outside doesn’t look divey in any way, shape, or form. The decor looks… contemporary… all the way, like they hired a decorator who specializes in hotel bars to pimp this place up (shocker).

I work in a very laid-back office, so I was wearing jeans and a sleeveless top on when I called in on a Thursday. I might have been the only customer there who wasn’t wearing somewhat classy work attire. But the place was busy, bustling, and fun. Ties were untied. Shirts were untucked. Jackets were off. Nobody cared. Plus, the bar staff were wearing pretty much the same outfit as I was, and they were just as attentive to me as they were to anyone else. I felt completely comfortable in my unprofessional gear.

I’d like to get my one major complaint about Vander Bar over and done with right now. Happy Hour’s soooo early, starting at 3:00 and ending at 6:00. Boo to that! So I only had about 45 minutes to swoop in and get down to business. The entire restaurant was abuzz, standing room only, but there was one seat left at the bar, so I snagged it.

I was impressed by several things. First, their beer specials are $4 a pint (they also have $5 wines and cocktails) and they offer beer like Brooklyn Lager and Stella Artois in addition to Bud, Coors, and the other usual suspects.

The beer is served in 20 ounce Imperial Pints, so you’re getting a bigger bang for your four bucks. They also carry Chimay, a high alcohol content beer that will get you cocked immediately (not part of the happy hour special). And they have plenty of other specials throughout the week, including half priced bottles of wine and ladies night; their website has more details.

Now here’s where a good deal becomes great. There are four $5 appetizers available: the chips and guacamole, spinach and artichoke dip, potstickers, and the Buffalo Wings. Wings happened.

When the wings came out, I was so happy my heart grew three sizes. There were eight HUGE wings on that plate. For only $5. And I’m talking big… seriously big. The size of chicken legs.

If you’re a Buffalo wing purist, I’ve got to warn you that the wings are breaded and fried. This isn’t something I’m usually willing to endorse, but I’ll make an exception here. Why? These fuckers are GIGANTE, and they were fried so perfectly crispy. Another point of contention: they were not smothered in Buffalo sauce, but rather, served with sauce on the side. Not usually my preference, but again, the mass of the chicken wings makes up for it! All the wings come with both Buffalo sauce and “Singapore” sauce, which brought to mind dumpling dipping sauce. I liked this concept of bringing out two sauces whether or not you asked. This way, people who aren’t Buffalo wing sauce fans can join in on the wing fun. The B-wing sauce itself was true Buffalo style, and the celery and carrots were great. The blue cheese sauce was chunky, creamy, and a smidge tangy. Very, very good.

When taking into account the food mass:price ratio, this is the best wing deal I’ve seen in Midtown! And accompanied by $4 20-oz pints of good beer, you’ll be hard pressed to find better deals.

I should also note the bartenders were highly skilled. I was there for such a short time, but they managed to serve me and my friend four beers and wings with no drama and no problem. They were amenable to helping us get our fast, cheap drinks in under the time limit, and that’s important. They also had impressively good hearing. I’ve been the unfortunate victim of selective hearing with many bartenders in my day, but even in this loud atmosphere, the bartenders heard and acknowledged everything we asked for in an bar chock-full of thirsty customers. Rare and admirable!

Lunch’ers, even though Vander Bar looks less-than-hip on the outside, give it a shot. I’m so happy that a bar in Midtown actually took the ballsy step to offer some veritable good deals. There are so many places I’ve been to that have crappy or nonexistent happy hour specials. They also have few customers. As long as Vander Bar keeps up these specials, they’ll have my business. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they extended the deal an hour or two?

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • There aren’t many joints in Midtown with $4 pints of good beer, and they’ve got Imperial pints to boot!
  • I like places with great service, and Vander Bar passes the test.
  • This is the best value Buffalo wing deal I’ve ever seen in Midtown! Hell, the best deal anywhere, ever!

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I feel uncomfortable when I’m the only one in the bar without a suit.
  • 3-6? This happy hour special is way too early.

Vander Bar, 45th Street at Vanderbilt Avenue, 212-885-6131


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