Union Square is a hotbed of tourist activity and a place many of us locals usually try to avoid unless entertaining out of town guests. I don't usually look for places to eat in the area. I know they are there but images of over priced tourist traps dance through my mind when I think about it. It's an area I've been to a lot, though my knowledge food establishments around it is limited. I have noticed over the last few months there have been a number of places that have opened in the area to some modicum of fanfare and I've kept them on my radar of--if I happen to be in the area--to give them a try. Recently the SO and I had a friend visiting who was staying downtown so what better time to eat someplace new. One spot I'd seen was Bartlett Hall. It was one of those places where the booze menu seemed to be as important as the food menu so what better time to try it than lunch! Yeah, I don't necessarily drink and I'm all about the food, so that's what I'm going for.
It was a weekday but also a holiday, thus the place, fortunately, wasn't very full and we were able to get a table easily. The handful of tables with folks looked like groups of young folks on their lunch hour (who had to work this particular holiday). While it wasn't full, it was still kind of loud, especially when you combine it with the loud classic rock coming over the speakers. I'm a big classic rock fan, it was an interesting choice of tunes for lunch time. The space is all wood and more wood, feels more bar than restaurant.
One big difference between lunch and dinner is the menu. The one for lunch is limited--couple salads, couple apps, handful of sandwiches and flatbreads (turns out dinner is limited too--and the drinks menu is bigger than both of them). Because of the hood, it's probably a good way to go, puts less pressure on the kitchen to have to prep for too many different dishes. Though if that's all you are gonna offer, they better be really good.
The Maverick Burger--grass fed Angus beef butter burger with lettuce, crispy onion strings, stout and cheddar rarebit on toasted sesame bun with a side of russet fries--$16.00. With a butter burger, means they are either basting it heavily in butter or adding it to the meat mix to add an extra level of flavor, not sure which was done here though. It was cooked perfectly to medium rare, had some great juiciness and taste to it. The size was a tad on the small side. I liked the crispy onions, but you know, fried things, always good. The bun was also toasted with butter, something I champion for. The rarebit was like fondue of stout beer and sharp cheddar. (It's the yellowish thing in the pic) On its own it was bitter and not terribly appealing. Once you spread it on the burger however, the taste profile seemed to change and the meat and spread complimented each other surprisingly well. Both me and the SO liked how they worked together. The fries also were decent. Hot, thin and extra crispy while still a soft and potato-y in the middle, though you don't get a whole lot. And while, for the most part, I liked the burger, this is not worth $16. $12.50 maybe, including fries, but size and taste wise it's just okay. Nothing here makes you go WOW, that's a really great tasty burger. More like, yeah, it's good. Even the cheese sauce doesn't make it worth that much. Maybe if some bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes were added in I could almost see it. As is, no.
Fried chicken sandwich--Mary's organic free range (buzzwords!) chicken, battered and deep fried, with red cabbage and carrot slaw, bread and butter pickle on a toasted buttered sesame bun--WITH AN EVEN SMALLER PORTION of russet fries--$13.50. Well, I liked the pickle. It was slightly sweet and tangy and there should have been two on here instead of one. Everyone does that whole pickle on a fried chicken sandwich thing these days. I call it the Chik-Fil-A effect. They really did it first and everyone else does it to some varying degree of success. A lot really depends on the pickle, whether it is too sour or too sweet. Here I think they went pretty good together. Most of my issues here were the chicken was overcooked. Parts of the batter on the chicken were crispy hard with tastes of burnt. Some of the chicken itself was a little dry--I had to ask for mayo. Which brings me to the slaw--not enough mayo and too bitter. There was some seasoning in it that bordered on anise-like and was unpleasant and overpowering. I had to scrap the slaw off to eat the sandwich. And then there was the SMALL PORTION OF FRIES--okay that's all I'll say about it. There are so many better versions of fried chicken sandwiches in this town these days I say skip this one and try something else.
I guess if you are into micro brews and crafted cocktails, this could be a place to stop after work with your co-techies to hang and drink. The limited food menu, while seemingly pub inspired, still leaves less to be desired, at least the stuff we had. As I said up top, normally I avoid eating in the Union Square area and Bartlett Hall didn't necessarily change my mind about that. It won't keep from trying a new place if it opens in the area, but it won't always be my first choice of neighborhoods to dine in.
(On a side note. A friend who was with us ordered a virgin bloody mary, yeah I know. Still, the server informed them they use a mix and not fresh tomato juice or anything. They were fine with that but I did notice they charged us $8--for a glass of bloody mary mix! It wasn't like it was a gigantic glass, it was your standard slim drink glass. In the realm of outrageous prices, I'd say that ranks right up there.)