Frozen dinners are a woefully underrated cuisine--and were it not for new bar Palais Royale, we'd have gone our entire lives none the wiser. Who knew the ideal accompaniment to a potently poured Manhattan was neither filet mignon nor seared salmon? It's that sophisticated stoner staple, the beloved White Castle burger.
Pairing an entire menu of microwavable meals with 30 types of bourbon is that high-low melding that every ironic New Yorker appreciates, and co-owner Adrian Gallo clearly knows as much. Residing in the former space of well-regarded Chinatown restaurant Wyanoka, his Palais Royale boasts all the greatest hits from TV-dinner land. Entrees of Stouffer's Mac 'n' Cheese ($5) and french-bread pizza ($5) are scrawled in chalk on a blackboard next to the tiny bar up front; the bartender merely nukes 'em up and serves them on the metal bar or at one of the dark, candlelit booths. Order them with either a mini-can of Bud ($2), or go high-brow with a Manhattan using 10-year-old Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon ($8). Two-for-one drink specials from 5-9 (no weenie 4-6 hours here) ensure you'll be getting your share of their finer whiskies, which are best mixed with Ale-8-One. This light ginger ale is rarely available outside its home state of Kentucky, and Gallo has a friend personally cart it up from there.
Let us also applaud that starter selection from their new jukebox, hovering underneath a flat-screen TV (showing Shaolin Soccer for some reason that night). We don't need to hear Sufjan Stevens on the bloody iPod again. Just give us some "Erotic City," some Swanson's Hungry Man meals, maybe a pool table, and we'll be sated. Oh yeah, and an aquarium to look at while we pee.
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