I have to say that I have not had much Gastropub experience but I have had enough to know that Side Door–conveniently located at 151 East 57th between Third and Lexington–has an insane variety of cuisines that puts them light years ahead in this grub genre. German specialities like weinerschnitzel, Polish/Ukrainian legends like pierogies, American BBQ classics like rib stickin’ ribs and even savory Norwegian seafood items like smoked salmon on flatbread can be found here! Even the most die hard foodie or “Karen” would be hard pressed to find something that they didn’t want on the Side Door menu. Sometimes cuisines from around the world are “fused,” like good ol’ All-American trout that takes a gourmet turn when served with wilted greens and beet horseradish chutney.
When you first walk into Side Door, you get a strong sense of it being a sports bar since there are four large screens above the bar showing different sports and a lot of “high top” seating. You hear a lot of cheering when a game is particularly exciting, so be prepared for that–otherwise Side Door is pretty quiet. The floor to ceiling front windows bring in a lot of light and there is a fancy crystal chandelier in the backyard that gussies things up. The staff is warm, inviting and helpful so you will feel like you are in a Cheers type situation “where everyone knows your name” in a matter of minutes.
You will see a lot of guests with margaritas in hand as they have every flavor and beyond on the drink menu. Margaritas are the most popular mixed drink followed by a spiked Watermelon Lemonade. You can see the aforementioned Watermelon Lemonade and Mango Margarita–which are on $7 each during Happy Hour, Monday to Friday 5 to 8 PM. Many well drinks, sangria, beer and wines are included in the $7 deal! I hear from the staff that there is a Watermelon Martini that many regulars love.
My longtime dining buddy Gail and I had to try the Oma’s Spaetzle Soup! It is a giant portion as you can see above and the spaetzle is homemade. Think of a bowl of the best homemade chicken soup with lots of carrots, extra greens and tender spaetzle instead of noodles and you’ve got one of the best soups you’ll ever try. It is a big portion and can serve as a full lunch on its own. The veggies taste very “farm to table”! My sincere thank you to Oma for passing down this family recipe!
Next up, Gail ordered the Pork Schnitzel and I had a generous sample of it. I liked the way it was topped with a red cabbage slaw and sided with a potato salad with a creamy mustard Mayo mixed in. This is a huge portion and the pork oozes hot juice. If you are a classic old school German food lover, come into Side Door just for this–and I am sure that your server can find a nice dark German beer to go with it for you!
I had the Rock ‘N Ribs with are coated with a unique sour cherry sauce and sided with a very fresh giardiniera in a tangy vinegar dressing. These ribs are not something I will soon forget–as a matter of fact, they were the “rock star” item for me at my reviewer dinner. The sour cherry taste is natural and subtle and one you taste these ribs, you will immediately decide that they are well worth the sticky fingers that you are going to get. These are ultra juicy ribs with just the right amount of fat on them! I am shocked that they are not famous by now–they are up there with any ribs I have eaten in town!
We asked that our entrees be accompanied by the amazing homemade Side Door pierogies. There are two kinds and they look traditional on the outside but inside they have fillings with a twist. These are the Truffle Pierogies which have a filling of potato, truffle, mushroom and Parmesan cheese and are served in a simple buttery sauce. The truffle taste is delicate yet rich and you will want to eat these slowly to savor every bite.
Above you can see the Kimchi Pierogies which have a potato, cheddar, kimchi, butter, scallions and chicharron filling and are served in a buttery, lightly creamy tomato-tinged saucesauce. Again, we have a whopper of a portion and this could easily be a whole lunch for someone.
Gail and I never leave a resto without having dessert and there are three very solid ones served at Side Door at the moment–Apricot Ricotta Crepes (pictured above), Cheesecake and Orange Creme Caramel, which I understand is similar to flan. The crepes are soft, warm and freshly made and the filling is creamy (I believe that homemade ricotta is used). The apricot sauce has a nice tang and large chunks of fruit. These are very satisfying and a great to end a dinner with both a savory and sweet taste at the same time.
The cheesecake is extra creamy and served with both homemade strawberry and chocolate sauces. This is a very solid desserts. It is not quite traditional New York cheesecake but it is super creamy, cold and has just the right amount of sweetness. It’s definitely a winner and can give Junior a run for its money. I hope to come back and try it with different flavors of sauces and toppings in the future.
Side Door not only has a great variety of food and drinks to choose from but the prices are super reasonable (for instance, the Rock ‘N Ribs are only $17). The is a no rush atmosphere and the super high ceilings help contribute to the light and airy feeling as much as the floor to ceiling front windows do. To learn more about Side Door and to make a reservation, go to sidedoornyc.com. On weekends, they have a fantastic brunch menu with over 40 items, all priced between $8 and $18. Hats off to owner and culinary guru Dan Nistorescu for having such diverse, reliable fare at such great prices–especially in these inflationary times!