Sex, Jersey rippers, and rock ‘n’ roll may not be your typical restaurant offerings, but Wild Horse Tavern (1629 Second Avenue; 212-300-4132) is giving the Upper East Side a place to experience at least two of life’s carnal pleasures. Part classy tavern, part fist-pumping live-music venue, the newly opened establishment isn’t just a new bar along the developing Second Avenue subway line, it’s a living reminder of New York’s rock ‘n’ roll roots.
Owner Charlie Sub, whose father, Paul Sub, owned the historic Coventry Club, named the restaurant after the Rolling Stones song, and large-scale black-and-white photos of (presumably wild) horses adorn the walls, along with those of legendary stars like Janis Joplin. The stage, set in the back of the restaurant, has already hosted singer Alan Merrill, and there are plans to offer jazz nights and other genres in the coming weeks. Guests who don’t feel like singing along or would prefer the sounds of the street have that option here too, as the tavern offers outdoor dining and tables far enough away from the stage to enjoy conversation.
Today’s diners may be more likely to recognize cochon than Janis Joplin, and in that vein, executive chef Max Renny’s menu offers an approachable mix of intriguing, modern global-inspired tavern fare. Paying tribute to the Upper East Side’s rich food history, the restaurant is working with neighborhood stalwarts including Ottomanelli Brothers for a burger blend and German butcher Schaller & Weber for bacon, while Orwasher’s Bakery is supplying the bread for many of Renny’s dishes.
For fans of regional American food, there’s a deep-fried hot dog known as the Jersey Ripper, the Dutch beef and cheese croquette known as bitterballen, and a Cuban-style reuben sandwich. “I’m taking these classic, heavy-hitting tavern dishes and just trying to enhance them a little bit. I feel like that’s definitely taking a huge step forward right now,” Renny tells the Voice.
The bar brings a mix of craft cocktails, wine, and beer to the party, with drinks named after popular songs and musical eras, such as Thyme Is on My Side and the British Invasion. There’s also the bar’s own barrel-aged Manhattan moonshine cocktail, with happy-hour specials including a burger and beer for $14 and $4 select draft beers.
There are benefits in cooking in a rock ‘n’ roll bar, as Renny explains: “The music is great; it’s definitely fun to cook and listen to live rock. Sometimes, I’ve got to hit the cowbell back there a little harder to get people’s attention.”