Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 28 October 2011
Sons of Essex: A Restaurant Review

Sons of Essex
133 Essex Street, near Rivington Street, Lower East Side
Getting There: J,M,Z to Essex Street


Rising from the ashes of the recently shuttered Mason Dixon on Essex Street comes a new concept that’s part deli, part speakeasy, part lounge, and all restaurant. Launched almost across the street from the chic Beauty and Essex, Sons of Essex celebrated its official opening for dinner, and was first in line for the evening.

From the outside, especially in the evening, the storefront has an old school, almost neighborhood barbershop feel to it. Similar to its neighbor across the way, inside the front door lies an actual working delicatessen- open for lunch- serving up coffees and pastries, and even dirty water style hot dogs in the evening. Once past the bouncer, the doors open into a dimly lit turn back of the clock- a large space with a flapper-style appeal. Distressed wood lines the floors and ceilings with old fashioned pictures spread out amongst the walls. The bartenders, dressed traditionally, are more mixologist types than draught beer pourers, making this an ideal spot for cocktails first and foremost. As the southern flare was ushered out from the former bar, so was the mechanical bull that graced the back of the room. In its stead is now a trendy, comfortable looking lounge, which certainly will become an attractive destination as the dinner hours conclude.

Candidly, we sat early to avoid any wait times, but managed to make some time for some excellent house cocktails while seated at the bar beforehand. The raspberry and ginger, and Grey Goose laden, “Moscow Five Points,” ($13) was outstanding and deserves mention. “The Pushcart” ($13), was also tasty, but much stronger and sweeter, with Woodford Reserve bourbon, sweet vermouth, and a maraschino cherry garnish.

It was somewhat surprising to us that the newly opened place did not fill up with patrons sooner, but one thing became clear as we surveyed our surroundings- once word gets out, reservations here are going to be a must. Appealingly, the restaurant delivers a complimentary silver pail of some delicious Guss’ Pickles and a small tray of warm cheddar and dill cornbread- light and fluffy, with a salty and buttery exterior. But choosing from the menu became no easy task since it was loaded with so many different options, most of it being comfort food. Told we couldn’t go wrong with any of the different Mac & Cheese or Grilled Cheese selections, served to share for the table, we opted for the Thursday special- a grilled cheese sandwich, cut in half and served with brie and granny smith apples ($13). Delivered with a sizable bowl of creamy tomato bisque for dipping, the buttery toast meshed in with the smooth melted brie cheese and the tang of green apple. The side of bisque proved no match for the sandwich as it evaporated instantly.

The bone marrow ($13) appetizer was also delicious, although the size was diminutive. Served with four tiny roulettes, the marrow was served inside the bone and doused in bread crumbs. Even with a side of sliced citrus, the small portion size left us disappointed since we were sharing, although it is worth mentioning that the combination of flavors was flavorful. Leaving many of the appetizing pizza and pasta entrees on the shelf, we opted for the “Four Questions Braised Short Ribs” ($27)- a sweet and sticky sizable cut of rip off-the-bone tender meat, slowly braised in Manischewitz wine and over a bed of roasted leeks that tasted like crunchy bok choi. The generous portion of the entree more than made up for any underwhelming feelings from earlier in the evening. And the smooth side of creamy mashed cauliflower puree ($9) was an excellent non-starchy compliment to our meaty entrée.

Make no mistake, Sons of Essex knows exactly what it is doing- trying, very obviously, to be a cool spot, opening during a Lower East Side renaissance. Inside, the old space feels rejuvenated and reborn- a place that we feel fortunate to have visited first, before it blows up into New York City’s latest hotspot, if the celebrity endorsement videos online are any indication. Sometimes, restaurants and bars try to encompass every potential Manhattan destination under one roof, but somehow Sons of Essex manages to make it work. Something tells us that the days of walking in and being granted a table without a reservation, are soon to be numbered as word gets around about this exciting new restaurant.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. I enjoyed the review and would certainly consider visiting the restaurant. Your heads up regarding some of the portions will be noted as well as the description of some of those delicious entree’s