The Prince of the City Review for Beauty and Essex

by Gamal Hennessy

Phone Number: 212-614-0146
Address: 146 Essex Street
Cross Streets: Rivington and Stanton
Closest Trains: F to Delancey St.; J/M/Z to Essex St.

The pawn shop underneath the Beauty and Essex sign looks authentic enough. The stuff in the displays might even be for sale. But the façade is ruined by the bouncer in the back. Why the hell would a huge man dressed in black with a bodyguard’s earpiece be standing by the rear exit of a pawn shop?

At this point, if you have been to NYC speakeasies that pride themselves on being small, exclusive and ‘hard to find’, then you take a deep breath and get ready to whip out your best ‘get past the bouncer’ technique. Relax. You won’t need it. The door here opens easily. You might be disappointed because your anti-doorman skills are being wasted, but you can visit the Lavo if you want to practice your nightlife kung fu.

The “pawn shop” opens into an ornate waiting room that offers two options; a dark lounge ringing with the sounds of laughter and clinking glasses straight ahead and a set of stairs on your right leading up into the unknown. Before you can choose your own adventure, before you can even go three steps in any direction, the hostesses meet you with smiles. If you have a res, they take care of you. If you don’t, they direct you to whichever bar that is less crowded. I chose to follow the sound of laughter and wine glasses.

Another two steps put me in front of a host who wanted to help me take off my coat and assist me in dealing with the coat check girl. Before I took another half step, a fourth person offered to help me choose between a seat at the bar or in the lounge area. B&E was fairly busy at that point of the night, but I dealt with six different workers in almost as many steps. Either their customer service is very hands on or I looked particularly helpless that night.

Other speakeasies are cozy, intimate affairs. By contrast, B&E, is quite big. It is a restaurant in its own right. I got the impression that it was the same size as a Spice Market, a Lambs Club or a venue of similar size. The interior is the kind of dark wood and low lighting that makes normal looking people seem cute and cute people seem really hot.

The music wasn’t memorable for being particularly good or bad but it supported a laid back vibe and worked well with the space.

The bartenders and hostesses were professional with a politeness that bordered on actual friendliness, even though the room was rather hectic and they were obviously still working out the kinks that come with serving drinks and food in a brand new venue. If they still have that good attitude in a few months when the place is running smoothly, B&E will be a very nice place to have a meal or a drink.

As I sat with my business partner and worked on our latest hustle, we took a moment to look around the room at the types of patrons the venue attracted. My associate, an operator with nightlife experience in New York and Europe, mentioned that the patrons reminded him of the 1OAK/ Bijoux crowd while the space itself was similar to private clubs he’d seen in London. I can’t comment on the British connection, since all the venues I’ve been to in London were the huge Ministry of Sound type places, but I can agree that the patrons in B&E looked more like SoHo/ Meatpacking variety that the natives that I associate with the Lower East Side.

The cocktail menu is diverse and along the lines of what you expect at a venue like this; better than your standard bar or club drink, but not as good as a speakeasy crafted cocktail. We didn’t have dinner, but glancing at the menu I saw jewels on toast, chicken fried oysters and various types of steak.

If you want a date option that feels like going to the Meatpacking District but without leaving downtown, B&E is a good choice. Just ignore the pawn shop, smile through the hand holding and go with someone cute.

Have fun.