Gimme a Break

Desperately seeking asylum after a night of retreat

The city has plenty of dives in which to reenact the dingy dance scene from campfire flick Indian Summer. If, you know, you thought that might be something you might want to do sometime. Maybe. With Kabin in the East Village, Gramercy's Black Bear Lodge, and Buck's Lodge in Cobble Hill (where bartenders call out "Buckshot!" to signify that it's time to imbibe the drinking hole's signature snifter of cinnamon-and-nutmeg whiskey), the Big Apple's filled to the rim with grim.

But for those who prefer Daddy Warbucks' ski chalet to a low-rent lodge, there's Retreat (37 West 17th Street). This new Flatiron lounge bills itself as "the perfect get-away from ordinary nightlife," with 2,500 square feet of "sumptuous handcrafted wooden walls" and "luminescent antique mirrors" that lends a "unique rustic and warm ambiance." Sounds good, huh? Like a peaceful, sophisticated vacation from the horror of the Meatpacking District a few blocks away? Right? Wrong.

We walked in around 11:30 on a recent Saturday night, bypassing a group of striped-shirts waiting behind the ropes ("Five guys?" the bouncer asked). The delay was understood once inside—the lounge was already brimming with boys. And by boys, we mean . . . well, boys: young, dumb and collectively in possession of more hair product than Jessica Simpson and Ken Paves combined. When we overheard a laudatory "His wife is fuckin' slammin', man—and she fuckin' loves you," we were less surprised by the congratulator's irritating behavior (he said this just as he unapologetically spilled a drink all over our shoes) than by the idea that he might be socially acquainted with anyone mature enough to be married.

Admittedly, with the exception of the questionable National Geographic-meets-night vision art panels lining the elevated VIP area, the space is kind of beautiful. One of the club's major selling points is the hand-carved treehouse DJ booth (which might have been more impressive if it was emitting something other than predictable Prince-Jacko-Timberlake remixes); tree-trunk tables, candlelit walls and antler chandeliers drive home the upscale lodge theme. Unfortunately, our favorite part had nothing to do with the bar's "organic-chic style": We liked the bathroom attendant best, who conspiratorially rolled her eyes at the drama queen crying at the sink.

To summarize: Retreat is loud, young and crowded. So . . . kind of a misnomer. If that's what you're into, you'll love it. But we'll be at Buck's looking for Unca Lou.

 
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