After seeing Matilda on Broadway we took a short walk through Times Square to 46th Street where we found Joe Allen, a restaurant that had been recommended to us because it’s in the theatre district and serves American classics well.
Joe Allen opened his restaurant in May of 1965 and during that year, the cast of the ill-fated show, ‘Kelly’, gave Joe a poster of their show. Doomed ‘Kelly’ had just one performance only and the saddened cast thought their poster should hang somewhere. Joe agreed to hang it in his restaurant. Since then it has become a tradition for the posters of Broadway flops to hang on his walls. This has endeared the stars of Broadway to his restaurant and the Broadway community continues to frequent his restaurant.
Back in 1965 a burger cost 75 cents and a ticket to a Broadway show just $7.50. So much has changed but the traditional American cuisine is still served and now there are Joe Allen restaurants in Florida, London and Paris.
You can make a booking but we didn’t have one and just walked in and hoped for the best. You step down to the restaurant from the street and once inside you find a cosy interior with raw brick walls and wide timber floors. Natural light comes in through the windowless archways that open onto an enclosed garden with trees covered in fairy lights.
Fortunately walk-ins are welcome and we were shown to a table close to a view of the garden. Like most New York restaurants we visited there is a bar where you can sit up and enjoy a drink. The waiters are smartly dressed in black with crisp long white aprons. We were quickly attended to and almost instantly water was brought to the table along with some complimentary sour dough bread.
We were asked what we’d like to drink and I ordered a Chardonnay from France in the quarter litre size and I thought it was very reasonably priced at $12.00.
We weren’t terribly hungry and so asked if we could share an appetiser. We ordered the guacamole that comes with either corn tortilla chips or endive leaves and we chose the tortilla chips that are made on the premises. It arrived almost instantly. The guacamole had great consistency, was loaded with tomato and coriander and was mellow and smooth with no heat.
Then again we ran into trouble where we hadn’t finished our shared appetiser and our waiter asked if he could clear our plates because there was another waiter standing behind me with our main courses in his hands. What is with the rushing? Is it because we didn’t book? Was our table booked for someone arriving in the next five minutes? Maybe the building was on fire?
For a main course Arabella ordered the buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks from the appetiser menu. She loved the spicy sauce on the wings and cooled it down with the blue cheese sauce. She found these wings to be highly addictive in that it’s impossible to stop at just one.
I ordered the hamburger with French fries. Now I’m sorry you’re seeing a lot of the same food – it does seem that we ordered buffalo wings and burgers everywhere we went but we were on a quest to eat ‘American’ wherever we went. So…I ordered the burger medium-rare and when the burger arrived (or when it was rushed to the table), it was more than an inch thick and it was medium rare just as I had ordered it.
The burger arrived ‘deconstructed’ with the lid of the bun to one side and the salad ingredients like the lettuce, tomato and the pickle on the side of the plate and then the condiments arrive in jars separately. It’s very different presentation to an Aussie burger notwithstanding the omission of beetroot. Even though I was eating this in two halves, it was a great burger that was filling and satisfying and Arabella helped me finish my crispy fries.
We did ask to see the dessert menu and it appeared immediately. In keeping with the ‘on-speed’ pace we were asked what we would like. Rushing through the list I found the menu is full of American classics like key lime pie, ice cream, chocolate chip cookies and cheesecake.
Arabella ordered two scoops of vanilla ice cream – I’m sorry she wasn’t a little more adventurous. The ice cream is made in-house and arrived as two massive scoops in a little dish. The ice cream had a very smooth and rich custard.
I couldn’t go pass up the opportunity to experience a slice of banana cream pie. It arrived quickly and was a very generous slice of pie. It was very creamy, really smooth in texture, not too sweet and with a healthy layer of bananas at the bottom of the pie. With so much creaminess it was rich and I was unable to finish my pie.
Rather than being asked if we’d like anything else like a coffee, the check arrived and with that our dining experience was over. We stepped out into the night that was still in full daylight and headed back up to the crowds at Times Square.
Joe Allen is a rustic and cosy looking restaurant serving authentic American classics to New Yorkers. You get the impression this is a place where the locals come to dine and that it’s not on the tourist map. The food is very well executed, extremely generous in portion size and the prices more than reasonable. It’s within walking distance of all the Broadway theatres making it the perfect choice for before or after the theatre and who knows, once inside Joe Allen’s, you may even sit next to a star or two. If you didn’t feel like there was an agenda to have your table turned over so quickly, this would be one of my most favourite places to dine in New York.
Verdict: An excellent choice for before or after the theatre.
Joe Allen: 326 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036
Ph: (212) 581 6464