A Great Pre-Theater Grill

A Great Pre-Theater Grill

A Chopin martini and Bobby Van’s housemade potato chips.

One of my favorite things to do before a Broadway curtain is to find an elegant but comfortable bar to meet a friend at for dinner. Eating at the bar before a show just makes so much sense to me: You are pretty much guaranteed fast and friendly service (I mean, we are talking about New York City bartenders), and chances are you will strike up a conversation with other theater-goers and enjoy the kind of Broadway banter that feels so good and so chic with an icy cocktail in hand.

This particular evening, I decided on Bobby Van’s. I had never been to the well-known steakhouse chain, and being that it was just a block down from the show I was seeing (“The Encounter,” at the John Golden Theatre on W. 45th St.), it seemed like a wise choice. In all honesty, I didn't expect much: In my experience, steakhouse menus tend to be more or less the same, dependable, basically simple, but not particularly inventive. Taking a seat at the small, but handsome bar, my first pleasant surprise was discovering the restaurant served Chopin vodka, a potato-based vodka, that tastes richer and cleaner tasting than other high-end vodka alternatives, but is not always so easy to find, even in NYC. After my martini was served—just the way I like it, straight-up, icy-cold, with olives and a twist—a bowl of housemade potato chips were put in front of me, a crunchy, perfectly-salted delight. Finally, once my friend arrived, dinner choices were made. As we usually opt for a few appetizers, we settled on sesame-seared ahi tuna, dotted with black and white sesame seeds and a terrific wasabi-ginger sauce, which hit the spot, as did the lovely, fresh cold asparagus vinaigrette. Buffalo mozzarella and tomato were served in an unusual way, chunks of the fresh mozzarella already sitting on top of the thick beefsteak tomatoes and dotted with a sundried tomato finish. All was accompanied by a lovely basket of three or four different types of warm rolls and thick breaksticks. The dinner was enlivened by conversation with two lovely women seated next to us, in from San Francisco to see a slew of Broadway shows, including “Love, Love, Love,” “Hamilton” and “Heisenberg.” We all wound up having fun trading “our favorite Broadway shows of the last year” lists.

It’s so lovely when ordinary turns out to be something really special. Bobby Van’s was a happy surprise for me, indeed.

>> Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, 120 W. 45th St., 212.575.5623