January 23, 2013

Bill’s Thrills

buttons open

57 East 54th Street (between Mad and Park)
(212( 518-2727

Excellent. You'll consume more than your skinny jeans will allow.


Friday night in midtown, woo woo! Imagine my surprise when I decided to go to the hot new DeLucie place on a Friday night, and- wait for it- I was able to get a reservation! At a prime time! Take that, the Lion! I read about Bill’s on Eater, etc, but a lot of my internet searches were thwarted by the fact that Bill’s has taken over the space that housed Bill’s Gay Nineties basically forever, and pretty much kept the name. The Bill’s of yore is gone, but the website is not. Note: the official name of this joint is “Bill’s Food and Drink”- it will make online creeping a lot easier. All of that aside, I was ready to check out DeLucie’s new steakhouse concept, and see what kind of celeb magnet he had created in Midtown East. Boyfriend had grown up going to Bill’s Gay Nineties, so he was also excited to see what had become of the place.

Bill’s has a very cool vibe, attributed largely to the authentic speakeasy history of the space- all the worn touches are real, and the feeling is low-key and homey. In general, Bill’s is more in line with the cozy, old-time feel of the Waverly than the large scale, slick space of the Crown. The ground floor bar area is still very much a piano bar like it always was, although slightly cleaned and spruced up. Live singing makes me awkward and I hate loud noises (unless I am at Pat O’s in NOLA, then all bets all off), so we skipped having a cocktail there and headed upstairs to our table. I love the upstairs room- the ceiling is high and wood-beamed like a ski lodge, and the walls are filled with various taxidermy, found mirrors, signs etc- kind of manly and clubby, but cool. It is almost like Freeman’s rich older brother. This is a white table cloth restaurant at the heart of things, and a pretty pricey one at that. The service was mostly proficient but not stuffy, with the exception of the sommelier, who offered vast sweeping desciptions of the $75 bottle of wine we inquired about and decided to only recommend wines that were 3 times the price, literally. We stuck to our guns and she mostly disappeared for the rest of the night, no doubt trying to work her up-selling bs on some of the more moneyed clientele.

In full disclosure we did not order steak. We started with shrimp cocktail, which was dressed up with shaved horseradish and delicious because that is really hard to mess up. Next we split a pasta with cheese and egg yolk that was a large portion, and pretty delicious, though it could have benefitted from a the addition of some pepper. The chicken was tasty in its rich juices and crispy skin, although not as warm as we would have liked it. This was actually a perfectly rustic, warming dish to eat in this environment, and the pommes aligot proved to be a worthy companion. The crowd at Bill’s was much older than I had expected- all well-dressed people in their 50’s and up, even as the night wore on. I don’t know if that is a function of it being a weekend in mid-town or the prices, but the room was very platinum hair and platinum Amex.

A night out at Bill’s is highly enjoyable, and it is possible to have a gay old time without dropping some serious dough…

pants at a glance

  • scene: Dressed up ski-house chic in midtown; speakeasy and speak lowly
  • sip: Something adult; wine
  • savor: Meat of any kind; raw bar, pasta...
  • sit: Cute place for date night and you can always keep the buzz going downstairs; with parents or people staying in midtown
  • stilettos: This place is on many levels so make sure you can strut in your shoes; Restrained dressiness
  • spend: $$$
  • address: 57 East 54th Street (between Mad and Park)
  • phone number: (212( 518-2727
  • website: www.bills54.com

pants picks

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