Mark Wright wishes he thought of the idea behind Beauty & Essex, one of NYC’s hippest tucked away insider hangs. On Essex Street between Rivington and Stanton Streets, Beauty & Essex fools passersby as a pawn shop. It actually is a pawn shop in the first room, with unique items such as a Notorious B.I.G. action figure and clutch purses adorned with crystal skulls. It would be a crime to shop for these items and not realize that the back wall opens up to a gorgeous two story restaurant, bar and after hours club. The bouncers standing around with earpieces should tip you off, though…
Beauty & Essex has a comprehensive wine list, although you won’t pay less than $50 for a bottle. Their specialty drinks are inventive and delicious, including the O.D.B. (“Old Dirty Bramble”) and the taste bud popping Blood Orange-Jalapeno Margarita. Drinks at Beauty & Essex aren’t just served at the bar or your table, oh no – there is a bar in the ladies room, pouring free champagne! Sorry gents, this is a privilege especially for us. Although if you’re nice to us, I’m sure we’ll bring you a glass.
Illustration: Courtesy of Thyra Heder.
Their tapas menu includes items as unique as you’ll find in their pawn shop, including Roasted Bone Marrow, Crispy Sweet & Sour Pork Belly, and my personal favorite, Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon & Tomato Soup Dumplings. The tapas portions are small, but every morsel is absolutely divine, and the service couldn’t be more disarming and friendly.
Their desserts are equally inventive and yummy, but my favorites have to be the Black Bottomed Butterscotch Pot de Crème and their signature dish: Box of Doughnuts. The doughnuts may sound boring but I assure you, they are anything but. Bite into these still warm, freshly made, sugary treats and you’ll get either a raspberry or nutella blast of flavor inside… the perfect end to a delicious meal.
Up the winding staircase (complete with a wall made out of fur you can hold on to), on Beauty & Essex’s second floor you can have a pre or post dinner cocktail(s) complete with leather lounge chairs, loveseats and sofas, and a live DJ. I’m sure after a certain hour, dancing is encouraged. The sweeping pearl chandelier will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the roaring 20’s, in spite of today’s latest jams being spun by the DJ – I felt like busting out my flapper dress and hitting the dance floor, gimlet in hand.
Hidden gem has a new definition: Beauty & Essex. Go here while you’re in NYC and you will feel like a New Yorker in the know.