Shifting alliances

The Upper East Side is not exactly my favorite neighborhood. If you know me, you will know the extent to which that’s an understatement. But sometimes an intriguing establishment will induce me to make the trek uptown; and sometimes it’s worth it.

I recently experienced one such success when I stopped by Eli’s Night Shift, the new bar from Eli Zabar (the new Za-bar?). Unlike so many places in Manhattan, the atmosphere is inviting, with a ton of windows; and the service is friendly–my bartender immediately inquired about my reading material (These Shallow Graves, if you’re interested), and it turned out he’d just read another book with the same setting.

The list of drinks is similarly approachable, but still intriguing. The bar features beers from New York City-area brewers, including my favorite, Transmitter, and other good options like Gun Hill and Grimm. (And there was nary an Other Half in sight, at least when I visited; in my opinion, Other Half is the most wildly overrated brewery around. More about that another time, perhaps.) Prices are somewhat high (do fairly straightforward beers really merit an $8 price tag? I guess things are more expensive in NYC’s frozen northlands) though the selection is top-notch.

But I came for cocktails, and I was not disappointed. The Last Shift was an elixir of such comforts as bourbon, pumpkin, and milk; the Blue Vest, a beautiful concoction of gin and prickly pear shrub. While I don’t usually like cucumber, the garnish was resplendent, and played well with the botanical flavors of the gin.

I also don’t usually care for potato chips, but the free ones on offer at the Night Shift were so tasty that I may have to reconsider my position. The rest of the food menu looked good as well, but was obviated by the heaping basket of chips.

Luckily, once you just can’t stand being above 23rd Street anymore, you can make a quick exit: the Night Shift is just a short hop away from the 6 train and the Lexington Avenue buses, so you can easily head home, taking your grudgingly positive feelings about the Upper East Side with you.

Eli’s Night Shift, 189 East 79th Street, Upper East Side

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