The Rusty Knot Has No Clothes, But Long Straws That Prompt Blowjob Jokes

Thar she blows. . .

In front of me sits a $17 shepherd's pie that is hopelessly oversalted and a glass of crushed ice that tastes vaguely of rum and nothing else. Around the packed room, hipsters of every stripe—along with some obvious out-of-towners—are playing pool and sharing bowl-sized drinks with long straws that prompt blowjob jokes. My friends, meanwhile, are poking through assorted bar snacks and sucking on their cocktails dubiously. Martin, who is British, mentions that the shepherd's pie reminds him of his school lunches—except that this one is saltier and more expensive.

We're at the Rusty Knot, an elaborately faked nautical "dive bar" conceived by the Spotted Pig's Ken Friedman and Freemans' Taavo Somer. The food, which runs from pickled eggs to pretzel dogs to shepherds' pies, is by Momofuku co-owner Joaquin Baca.

The Rusty Knot has taken over the space on the West Side Highway where West Bar used to be. The interior has been completely revamped to create a '70s-rec-room-meets-sailor-bar feel. The kitsch is meticulously detailed: Menu boards with plastic letters spell out the food on offer as well as the daily times for sunrise, sunset, high tide, and low tide. A painting of scantily clad, busty sailor girls occupies the wall behind the bar. There are model ships that light up, glass lanterns, and faded prints of ocean liners. National Geographics from 1937 are stacked on a side table. No bit of clutter is there by accident. The whole thing is incredibly artful and convincing, from the ugly acoustic ceiling tile to the names carved in the wooden bar and tables.

Avast there, ye siren.
Andy Kropa

Avast there, ye siren.

Location Info

Map

The Rusty Knot

425 W. St.
New York, NY 10007

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: West Village

Ear Inn

326 Spring St.
New York, NY 10013

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Soho

Montero's Bar & Grill

73 Atlantic Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Brooklyn Heights

Details

The Rusty Knot
425 West Street, 212-645-5668

Ear Inn
326 Spring Street, 212-226-9060

Montero's Bar and Grill
73 Atlantic Avenue, 718-624-9799

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On one hand, I find this faux-cheesy shtick a little irritating—what's next, a hipster OTB? On the other hand, if you're a successful restaurateur, I can appreciate why you'd want to open a bar that's not the typical brick/dark wood/mixologist affair. The Rusty Knot is no more or less contrived than any other spot that's designed to the hilt. And everyone loves tiki drinks and classic pub food, so I was ready to be OK with the big, fat ironic quotes around everything.

But the tiki drinks were subpar and expensive, and the food was uneven, and so despite the skillfulness of the concept and the crowds and the celebrities, I'm sad to say that the Rusty Knot has no clothes. It's a place that dazzles with its big names and its too-cool-for-school cleverness and fails to deliver a very enjoyable experience.

Most of the food is fine, but forgettable. The best were the pickled egg ($1) and the deliciously over-the-top chicken-liver-and-bacon sandwich. The pretzel dog boasted a very-good-quality, juicy frank. Beer puffs turn out to be Pillsbury-esque dollops of dough that smell faintly of beer. The meager portion of roasted razor clams was overwhelmed with a quantity of vinegary shaved fennel. The meat pie was stuffed with plain old ground beef, and the shepherd's pie made us all reach for our water glasses. And yes, it's meant to be pub food, but when there's a well-known chef running the kitchen, you expect really, really good pub food—and much of it isn't.

There's an old bar in Los Angeles called Tiki Ti, and all the bartenders should be shipped off there for training. The Mai Tai is the best of the lot—fruity, rummy, and not too sweet. The Zombie (at $13, the most expensive option) tastes exactly like a SweetTart candy, and doesn't have the big kick of rum that a Zombie should. When I ordered the Spiced Colada, it arrived in the form of a big glass of crunchy, crushed ice with a faint whiff of rum and no hint of any other flavor. A friend ordered the Rusty Knot, supposedly a mint-flavored cocktail, and got exactly the same concoction of unflavored ice. It turns out that these were the bartender's mistakes (expensive mistakes), which I learned when I forced myself to go back another day and order them again. This time, the Spiced Colada was sickly sweet, with a fake coconut flavor. A neon-orange substance was drizzled on top—presumably the "spice"?—that tasted mainly of sugary orange candy. The properly made cocktail was an improvement on the glass of ice, but just barely.

Still, the Rusty Knot has reasonably priced beer, big comfy chairs, cool breezes off the Hudson, and a view of the sunset. But if it's a nautical dive bar you're looking for, why not go to the real thing?

Just walk a few blocks south to the Ear Inn, an actual sailors' hangout and the second-oldest bar in the city, established in "1817 A.D." Here, the nautical paraphernalia on the walls is genuine, the friendly Irish waitresses greet regulars with hugs, the floor sags and creaks, and the ceilings are low. The room is packed with people who are here to see their friends—not Chloë Sevigny. The food is simple, items like chicken marsala, pork chops with apples and onions, and a good burger. The chicken pot pie arrives in an oblong crock, piping hot with puffy pastry and a comforting filling of chicken, peas, and big chunks of carrot that have clearly never seen the inside of a freezer.

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