Hidden behind a pawn shop store front is the 2-floor, all-in-one restaurant/lounge/nightclub Beauty & Essex. Definitely more up-dressed than your average Lower East Side waterhole, but without that off-putting pretentious feel, you’ll find at similar venues in Meatpacking District.
On weekdays Beauty & Essex is a relaxed, but hip place, and perfect for a catch-up drink with friends, but on weekends Beauty & Essex turns into a party spot of Vegas-ish dimensions.
The dining section is loud but stylish and food is surprisingly good. Most of the dishes comes as small plates, and the staff will tell you that you need 3-4 each, which you don’t, unless you’ve been fasting for a month. Depending on what you order, 2 dishes per person would probably be enough.
On weekends, the restaurant is packed so don’t count on getting a table, if you call in Friday afternoon.
What to eat? The Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon and Tomato Soup dumplings ($16).
There’s one bar upstairs and one bar right at the entrance downstairs. The cocktails ($17) might not be the best in town, but they’re very strong. The bartenders are nice, and don’t hesitate to strike up conversations with the guests. On weekends, the bar upstairs is more like a nightclub and gets really crowded.
What to drink? I like the O.D.B the best.
Beauty & Essex have bouncers, but I haven’t seen them turn away anyone, though if you show up late on a Friday night, you might have to wait to get in, as the place fills up quickly. I don’t think there’s a dress code, but on Friday and Saturday people dress up and the crowd is a little different than during the week.
The ladies room has free-flowing champagne (remember to leave a tip).
Beauty & Essex, 146 Essex Street, Lower East Side, New York