We knew what we were getting into before entering The East Village Yacht Club (42 East 1st Street), a terrifyingly sincere new bar-restaurant on East 1st Street between Third and First avenues, where pricey restaurants and brand-new condos abound—Mars Bar being the lone rotten tooth amongst the corridor’s otherwise capped and bleached veneer. Nevertheless, a sick curiosity prevailed.
We ventured in on a Friday night and were surprised the joint was so busy, given it had only been open a week. The ground floor, where the “Champagne Raw Bar” is located, was decorated to Cape Cod beach-house perfection: a swordfish mounted behind the bar, white sofas with striped pillows, white leather coffee tables and chairs, whitewashed walls and oil paintings of sailboats. The piped-in jazz and bitchy once-overs from the staff were enough to make us feel like we were actually in the Hamptons.
Despite its woes, the club definitely has its cocktail act together. The “Starboard Sea Dog” ($11), a beachy concoction of Absolut Ruby Red, triple sec, and lime and grapefruit juice, is delicious; so is the “Lower East Southside” ($11), a mojito-esque mixture of white rum, fresh mint, and Simple Syrup, finished with a splash of club soda. The food, on the other hand, wasn’t so hot. While the menu featured entrées like swordfish and roasted chicken, we made the mistake of opting for the bland, poorly named “Lady Wadsworth Spinach Dip” ($9).
Downstairs was where the action was. Naturally, the place was filled with thirtysomethings who—as one of my drinking partners so perfectly described it—looked like the villains from John Hughes movies. We gawked at a couple making out near the bar, because the guy kept squeezing the sides of his girlfriend’s head, which was equally weird and gross. But we didn’t have much else to look at––compared to upstairs, the decor wasn’t quite as spot-on. The aqua blue walls, oil seascapes, and nautical maps seemed out of place amidst the low ceilings and brick archways, which were far more suited to the Moroccan restaurants that had occupied the space in the past. Video footage of a marina is projected onto a large screen in a lounge area—which was sort of cool, except for the table inexplicably placed right in front of it. The unlucky souls who sat there were forced to choose between facing the bright screen or having light from the projector shine in their faces.
Overall, instincts are important to trust––the place scared the daylights out of us. It’s tempting to believe the Yacht Club will have a short life span, given the fate of those Moroccan restaurants that came before it, but with the neighborhood’s ever-shrinking island of tolerable spots, that’s probably wishful thinking.
Other upscale spots (without the sincerity):
Heathers Heathers is more suited to the Veronicas of the world than the titular trio of popular bitches from the movie of the same name. This local spot was established by and for an arty clique that hangs in the East Village—proving that not all working artists have fled to the outer boroughs. 506 13th Street, 212- 254-0979
Gowanus Yacht Club Proprietor Alan Harding—referring to the Moby-Dick– and Gilligan’s Island–inspired decor—says his cozy Carroll Gardens outdoor joint has a “Captain Ahab mounts Ginger” vibe. Add their burgers, dogs, and $1 cans of Pabst to the equation, and you have an ideal evening! 323 Smith Street, Brooklyn, 718-246-1321
Bushwick Country Club A tarnished, downtownish mockery of the khaki-clad suburban establishment, Bushwick Country Club lives up to its name with dingy chandeliers and a miniature golf course. 618 Grand Street, Brooklyn, 718-388-2114