Joe Allen, New York

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.

With this type of signage it was easy to find!

With this type of signage it was easy to find!

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.

The entrance

The entrance

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.

Polished timber floors and raw brick walls

Polished timber floors and raw brick walls

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.

Through the archways you can see the courtyard with trees covered in fairy lights

Through the archways you can see the 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.

The bar

The bar

The front page of the menu is a map of Broadway

The front page of the menu is a map of all the Broadway theatres

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.

A quarter litre of Chardonnay:  $12.00

A quarter litre of Chardonnay: $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.

Guacamole $14.00

Guacamole with house-made tortilla chips : $14.00

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?

Complimentary bread that we attacked before taking a photo

Complimentary bread that we attacked before taking a photo

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.

Buffalo Wings:  $11.00

Buffalo Wings: $11.00

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.

Hamburger with French Fries $14.00

Hamburger with French Fries $14.00

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.

Condiments brought to the table for the burger

Condiments brought to the table for the burger

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.

Sitting by the window

Sitting by the window

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.

Vanilla ice cream:  $8.00

Vanilla ice cream: $8.00

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.

Banana Cream Pie:  $9.00

Banana Cream Pie: $9.00

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.

Evening light coming in through the window

Evening light coming in through the window

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.

The enclosed garden

The enclosed garden

Joe Allen:  326 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036

Ph:  (212) 581 6464

Comments

  1. The food looked good. Shame you weren’t given a chance to enjoy it.

  2. Loving all your posts, especially the ones on NYC! Sounds like your accommodation is where close to where we are booked into, The Langham on 5th Avenue! Would you recommend this area Charlie? It’s been over 20 years since our last NYC trip so we are a little unsure.
    Thanks, and keep up the great posts!!

    • Hi Lily, lovely to hear from you. How fabulous to be staying at The Langham – what an amazing hotel. Yes, I was staying on 5th Avenue but staying at 2 5th Avenue. I think The Langham is at 400 5th Avenue so not exactly close. But if any of the places I’ve blogged about are of interest, they’ll all be easy to get to from The Langham by either taxi or the subway. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

  3. Next time I’m in the theater district, I’m going to have to try this place out! It’s hard to find somewhere that cooks American classics and is actually GOOD.

  4. Yum… I love Buffalo wings :) I would order them all the time too! Liz x

  5. I love the atmosphere.

    I don’t understand the rush either. Maybe it’s an East Coast/NYC thing. Certainly not prevalent in southern Minnesota where I live.

  6. Charlie – you are showing me a whole new side of NYC – I’ve been there so many times – but never to the places yall combed yourselves through!
    Chicken wings ARE totally addicting – and like Arabella, I find it impossible to stop at 1 or a dozen! YIKES! And your slice of banana creme pie has my stomach growling! It looks so amazing!

  7. Th menu card is fun and for sure unique. ahhh buffalo wings =D

  8. Nice review of a classic place. I had to laugh at $14 for guacamole and chips, though (you can imagine that here in Mexico diners would scream over that one). Nice-looking pie…makes me want to make one.

  9. I promise that Americans eat more variety than chicken wings and hamburgers! ;) Ha! That banana cream pie looked fabulous. The rushing would highly irritate me as well. It seems they could even make more money if customers were allowed to linger with before and after dinner drinks. But, like I said, “The New York Minute” joke is not really a joke at all, but reality! ~ April

  10. I’m glad that the food was good, but am sorry you were rushed. I have had that happen to me in some places, but not very often and I push back when it does. I do hope you haven’t left the states feeling that A) all restaurants here rush you, B) burgers and chicken wings are the only dishes representative of classic American food or C) all American cities don’t have restrooms available. Here in the South, we take our time, have plenty of restrooms and an unbelievable variety of foods that we would consider to be “American,” and Southern, too, with chefs who not only pride themselves on local ingredients but grow them right outside the restaurant. They’re constantly reinventing classics and classic southern or soul foods and creating new dishes every day. While there was a time in America that our restaurant food was fairly burger-centric, that time is long over and it saddens me to think that the visitors from other countries might get the impression that our nation’s food culture would still be best represented only by burgers, fries and wings…not that I don’t love those and ice cream, too, of course! :)

  11. Wow this place is so iconically American, have to try it when I to go back :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  12. It’s not just a New York thing to rush diners. We have found it all throughout the States. I feel like telling them they are losing money as a lot of the time we have eaten so quickly that we are too full for dessert, or if we had been seated for longer we would have ordered more wine (which is where the real profit comes from).

  13. The pushiness would spoil it for me Charlie. I think I would say something like ‘yes, you can clear my plate, but as there’s still half the meal on it, I’d like half my money back!’ Then if they looked at me funny, I’d tell them that’s standard practice where I come from in Australia, where chefs take pride in their work and want diners to enjoy the experience :) It wouldn’t work, but my passive aggression would sure feel better! Xox

  14. Another rushed meal! I did find service fast in Hawaii but not that fast! :o

  15. I hate that rushing. Maybe Americans eat faster? I’ve always been slow but then, I’m not shy in a restaurant and I’d make them take it back until I was finished with the first course. :)

  16. After a week in ill in bed have caught up with some of your NY activities. I am glad you and Arabella had a good time. Now I have been to the city a dozen times or more oft for more than a fortnight, but we seem to have frequented very different places. I have never ever been hurried and I would not stand for it. Like Maureen I would ask the next course to be taken back and brought out [freshly prepared] when I asked for it. If that did not suit I would quietly but firmly ask to see the Manager. And tho’ I have been to a hundred or more restaurants there I don’t even remember a hamburger on any of the menus :) ! I am afraid that to me is fast food. The East Coast has such delightful oysters, Maine lobster, crab in all forms, Indian pudding and scrapple if you really want to go American . . . but in NY I would always go for Jewish, Eastern, Middle-European etc dishes if I was not trying the superb French and Italian cuisine available. And all of it is not expensive!! To each their own and have a good weekend :D !!

    • There was a lovely lobster roll on the menu, Eha. As I’ve looked back at the images I took while in NY, I’m really shocked that we ordered such mundane choices. I think by the time we went out for dinner we were so exhausted from walking, walking, walking, sightseeing, sightseeing, sightseeing, shopping, shopping, shopping that combined with the heat, we were beyond being interesting!

      • [you have made a pretty ill me laugh!] Walking, sightseeing and shopping sound pretty good . . . . I guess after the first ten years or so one did not much think of the urban sightseeing any more :) !! I’m afraid my husband and I oft ‘came in silently’ [ie without telling our many friends in the City and NJ] , especially in autumn when NY comes to life, for a couple of weeks just for the opera, symphony, art galleries, museums and food . . . .

  17. Ah! I would have finished the banana cream for you, Charlie, lol :). But what you had is filling enough. Still, I want that pie!

    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

  18. It sounds like a whirlwind dinner but full of American classics! What a slice of pie – it looks very impressive.

  19. Your reviews are excellent Charlie, I can hardly wait to go back to NYC and try these places. I suspect that New Yorkers are always in a rush and that’s why the push you through so quickly. We usually tell them we’re not in a rush so please space things out a bit.

  20. I always found that food came too quickly while in America. i always ask them not to call the main course away till i tell them Im ready.

  21. Nice review. We were also just in NY – wish I’d known about Joe Allen as I’m sure my kids would’ve liked it.

  22. Looks like a beautiful little restaurant. The fast-paced serving would have driven me insane!

  23. I guess it goes hand in hand with the low prices that they need to turn over the tables quickly. Perhaps the cheaper prices are not worth the rush but it sure looked a cosy, interesting restaurant.

  24. The restaurant looks nice inside. But those huge servings. Eek! And the rush. Weird.

  25. That is large serving indeed, but I do find many places do give large servings at great prices. But this rushing the customers through is not good. Thankfully not much of it happening outside of NY it seems.

  26. I love all the rustic looking restaurants in the middle of the city! Looks like they know what they’re doing, though! Yum! ;) xo

  27. It always amazes me how cheap things use to be only 75c for a burger you can barely get anything now probably only a cone from Mac Donalds! I do find the service in New York to be in general more abrupt and rushed but as long as you enjoyed the burgers that’s alright :)

  28. i think the rushing through life is an American trait, in particular to those of us who live in major cities. And dining is no exception. For one thing, there are hundreds of people vying for the same dining table, and turnover is anticipated in all but the highest end dining establishments. And we have all grown very accustomed to it. When we travel to regions in the U.S. that aren’t as congested we note that things move slowly. It always takes me a time to adjust because I’m completely acclimated, sadly perhaps, to the rush! Now…beetroot on a hamburger?

  29. As has been said above, there are all kinds of ‘typical’ American foods , depending on the region…many of us here never taste them, yet, the people in those areas can’t imagine life without them.
    As for beetroot, you’ll never see that offered for an American hamburger.
    The pie looks wonderful.

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