I am a firm believer that rain is a blessing in disguise for restaurants. If you’re out on the town and suddenly are plagued with raindrops the size of golf balls, then you have basically two options: go home, or find shelter. For me, shelter often comes in the form of a bar – call me opportunistic!
This weekend, after going to the Hope Street Farmers Market, the rain came with a vengeance. Between Lippitt Park and Seven Stars, my clothes had been soaked all the way through. So, I figured, what better time to check out a place on Hope that I’ve had my eye on for a while: Kitchen Bar.
Walking in for the first time, I was surprised to see how high-end it appeared to be. The furniture was leather, the tables wood, the walls tiled, the napkins cloth. I felt slightly out of place with my yoga pants and baseball t-shirt but, seated in the corner of the restaurant, I was able to hide from the fancier crowd.
The menu was diverse: from steak frites to gyros to pizza, Kitchen Bar had a lot of culinary options that didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason. And a similar lack of focus was reflected in the aesthetic of the restaurant: the decor ranged from stoic black-and-white, to a bizarre collection of trinkets and statues lining the walls, to leftover Christmas decorations hung around the light fixtures. I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else (OK, I mean the restaurant owners) was confused about what Kitchen Bar wanted to be.
Still, I try not to judge a book by its cover. My table-mates and I ordered steak frites, a gyro, and spaghetti and meatballs. To Kitchen Bar’s credit, the food came very quickly; to their discredit, it might have been better if the steak hadn’t come at all. While my spaghetti and meatballs were tasty, the steak frites were grey and overcooked, and sat atop a bed of under-seasoned fries. When we asked the waiter for something different, the reply was, “Well, you did order it medium.” Our request for an order of truffle fries was acknowledged with a nod, but no apology.
The mood thus soured, the rude waitstaff now made us feel uncomfortable, too: for the rest of the meal, they never once checked in on us again, instead occasionally shooting dirty looks our way. In the end, though my spaghetti and meatballs were good (albeit unsensational) and my friend’s gyro was mostly yummy, we left with a bad taste in our mouths. Wanting to get out as quickly as possible, we paid in cash and left before we had another awkward interaction.
Though new to us, Kitchen Bar is no East Side newbie: it has been open since 2011, nearly an eternity in restaurant years. Given that, we’re willing to allow that this could have been an aberration: no eatery stays open that long without repeat business, so we may have to try again. On this visit, however, the kitchen part of Kitchen Bar was uninspiring, and our service experience was such that it may have been better just to walk home in the rain.