Silverleaf Tavern’s Happy Hour May Not Be Great, But It Has its Upsides
As I continue to hear news that many of our neighbors are still displaced by the hurricane, I thought it would be appropriate to try out a hotel bar for happy hour this week. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with hotel bars. They’re the type of place I love to go when I’m traveling for work or in an otherwise isolated airport hotel. It is a bar, after all, and sometimes they give you specials if you’re actually staying there. But rarely have I gone out of my way to enter a hotel bar in the city in which I live. I’ve always had the perception that the food is bad, the drinks are overpriced, and the service is not aimed to attract regulars. I was proven wrong a few weeks ago, when I had a great experience at Vander Bar, so I was hopeful that Silverleaf Tavern in the 70 Park Avenue Hotel (38th btw. Park & Madison) wouldn’t disappoint. I had heard from a friend they offered a decent happy hour food menu from 5:00 – 7:00. Indeed, according to their website, they have a nice selection of happy hour options: $2-$4 bar bites, $4 bottles, $5 house wines, and $5 wells, and $6 martinis.
If I hadn’t known Silverleaf Tavern was a hotel bar, judging by the decor, I would’ve assumed it was too swanky for me — it looks a bit classier than normal hotels. To be clear, this isn’t a dive. But when I looked at everyone’s casual attire, I felt fine. I made settled in and made myself right at home with all the Midwestern tourists and after-work happy hour patrons. The bar area is small, and disappointingly, the barstools were occupied, so we found a seat in the back seating area.
And although Silverleaf’s happy hour prices seem fair at first glance, they really aren’t great deals. The $4 bottled beer choices are Rolling Rock, Coors Light, Miller High Life, and MGD. In other words, $4 for 12 ounces of unexciting, low ABV beer. They also offer Landshark draft beer for $5, but the tap wasn’t working, so I couldn’t try it. Besides the beer, I also threw back a glass of wine; a cabernet sauvignon which wasn’t bad. (But it did make me realize how cheap my stuff at home must be if I thought a hotel bar house wine wasn’t bad.)
I was excited about the Happy Hour Bites menu, with a cup of soup or porcini popcorn for $2; hummus, spicy olives, truffle fries, mixed nuts or crab cake for $3; or a duck taquito for $4. Don’t get me wrong. I knew this were going to be tiny portions, but I liked the look of the ingredients. We ordered the popcorn and the truffle fries.
The popcorn was the least exciting. It was airy and light, and I assume was popped in a mixture of porcini oil and vegetable oil, because the flavor was nearly undetectable.
The $3 truffle fries were the highlight of my visit. These were really wonderful if you’re still riding the truffle train, which I am. The fries themselves are fantastic: thin, crunchy, and perfectly cooked. Wispy parmesan shavings and truffle oil top the fries, and there’s a lovely creamy, lemony dip that just works great with them.
However, as I predicted, portions were small. They push the envelope of skimpiness by using food and drink receptacles with an inverted conical shape. The wine glasses and bowls all make the volume of food appear deceptively larger than it truly is.
The tavern also lists Buffalo Wings on the menu, but sadly, they aren’t on the Happy Hour bites menu. I was startled by their $13 price. Normally, I would’ve skipped them, but since I’ve included this in all of my Happy Hour posts if possible, I decided to take one for the team and shell out the extra bucks.
We were in for an interesting surprise, as the wings had a twist on the recipe. I would say the flavor was a genuine Buffalo style with a medium heat. The blue cheese and celery were good, but nothing out of the ordinary; perhaps the blue could’ve been chunkier. But the wing preparation was interesting. Although I’m not sure of the recipe, it’s almost like the wings were slow-cooked, then lightly breaded, then fried. They were the most tender wings I’ve ever tried, and I loved how they were completely drowned in sauce. The meat fell right off the bone. My fella really enjoyed this quality in the wings, and even said he thought they were worth the $13. I disagree. Although they were tasty, they only served up nine smallish wings, and that is not going to cut it for Midtown Lunchers.
On a final, positive note, the bar has a pool table, and the games are free. So, even though this isn’t a true ML Happy Hour, Silverleaf Tavern has its upsides. If nothing else, go for the truffle fries.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- There are a lot of bars in Midtown that don’t even have a happy hour. Silverleaf has one!
- A lot of bar food is boring, but Silverleaf Tavern’s is pretty tasty — especially the truffle fries.
- I like to taste little samples of lots of dishes, so the Happy Hour food special is great for me.
- Wings are my thing, and the wings here are… tasty, tender, and unique.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Portion size is really important to me, and I hate it when bars skimp on the portions.
- I’m not really into politics, but I just became a member of the price of the Buffalo wings is too damn high party.
- I like dives, and this ain’t one of ‘em.
- I like to sit down and drink for more than two hours. If my time here bled past 7:00, this outing would no longer be affordable for me in any way.
Silverleaf Tavern in the 70 Park Avenue Hotel, 43 E. 38th Street, 212-973-2550