You might not immediately expect a Michelin starred restaurant with a prix-fixe tasting menu to have one of the best restaurant bars in the United States – assuming instead that this is a restaurant that would be all consumed with its wine list and dinner clientele, instead of creating a casually elegant and laid back environment for its drink patrons – but then you haven’t been to Betony.
While the restaurant has received accolade upon accolade for its cuisine, which is definitely well worth your time, if you can afford it, the drinks program at Betony is also second to none. Cocktails are inventive and whimsical, created by Eamon Rockey and his team of mixologists, with drink names such as Rifflin’ Dixie, The Socratic Oath and Eat A Peach. If you’re in the mood for an incredible cocktail, but don’t have the patience – or let’s face it, the desire – to deal with the snobbery that exists at most high-end cocktail speakeasies, just grab a stool at Betony’s bar instead. It was Betony’s staff that helped us build our classic cocktail library.
The staff behind the bar is friendly and jovial and there are no stupid questions. In fact, it’s because the staff is so welcoming and excited to chat that Betony is one of the best places in New York to visit if you simply want to learn about mixology. You’ll also probably discover something new that you’ve never tasted before, most likely poured for you gratis, just because the bartenders are excited about the product.
For most bars that are connected to high-end restaurants, the bar represents two functions: a place for diners to wait for their table, and the work-area for the dining room’s drink program, with the service bar seeing all the action. But at Betony, while you may encounter a few individuals seated or standing at the bar waiting for a table, what you might be surprised to find is a majority of the guests that have no plans to dine at all, but have instead come by for the ambience and the drinks. That’s truly how you know a good restaurant bar is a great restaurant bar – patrons choose to drink there even when they aren’t eating.
But just because you’re sitting at the bar doesn’t mean you can’t eat if you want to. In fact, if you were so inclined you could participate in the tasting menu right there at the bar. But the advantage of snagging that bar seat isn’t the ability to take part in the tasting menu, since everyone in the restaurant can do that if they want; it’s the opportunity to order à la carte from a menu that features some of the restaurant’s greatest hits. Start with the fried pickles, foie gras bonbons or fried chicken skins, all wonderful with the drinks, then don’t miss the incredible roasted chicken, or the sautéed skate wing. And make sure you eat a few of Betony’s freshly baked pretzel rolls. The last time we were there, the bartenders told us regulars have actually tried to set records for how many they could consume – they’re that good. What other high-end restaurant lets their regulars have a roll eating contest at their bar?!
And this is the beauty of Betony. It’s an incredibly polished restaurant that, in the end, doesn’t take itself too seriously. And the drinks are damn good.