Earlier this week I showed my finalized 101 list to my sweetie, and asked him if there were any items he wanted to do with me. He skimmed the list – then paused midway, looked up at me, and asked, “You want to go to Nye’s?” He sounded surprised. Not waiting for my answer, he said, “I’d do that one with you!” in a rather excited tone. He then asked if maybe I wanted to go out to dinner before going to Nye’s – make a whole night of it, you know? I smiled. Definitely, I said. Let’s definitely do that.
So last night my sweetie and I found ourselves at Ginger Hop, an Asian-fusion restaurant across the street from Nye’s.
Apart from the desirable location, the restaurant’s menu has a pretty extensive offering of vegetarian options, yet also has many meat-based dishes that my sweetie can enjoy. My sweetie got the red curry ginger stir fry (with beef), and I ordered the potsticker soup, an order of mock duck satay, and an order of steamed broccoli.
The soup was really amazing – and could have been a full meal in itself. (I ordered the small bowl, thinking I would receive a standard 1-cup size serving of broth with a single potsticker and maybe a cube of tofu and a sole mushroom… how wrong I was. The soup had two BIG potstickers in it, along with a whole block of tofu [diced into 1” squares], half a pint of sliced mushrooms, and a big handful of shredded cabbage, all simmering in a fantastic hearty/savory broth….it was incredible.) I didn’t eat the entire bowl of soup only because I would have felt really guilty/wasteful if I didn’t eat at least some of the two other items I ordered… but if I ever come back to this restaurant, I think a big bowl of this soup is the way to go for me! The mock duck was really good as well: just enough Korean BBQ sauce to make it savory and moist, but not so much that it was overpowering or ‘drippy’. As for the broccoli: it was fine. I mean, it was just plain ol’ steamed broccoli. So…fine. Whatever. Meh.
Though our main dishes were hearty and delicious and filling, somehow my sweetie and I managed to save a tiny bit of room for dessert. ;) We ordered a piece of Guinness chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting to share; sadly, it was a major disappointment. The cake was heavy and dry, and the frosting was super-boring. Ugh. (The cakes I made in my decorating class totally dominated this sorry excuse for ‘dessert’.) After the amazing soup (and really good satay), I thought this sweet would be the perfect end to a fantastic meal – and man, I was super-disappointed. As in, I’m still kind of sad about it, even today. Bummer.
But, there was more evening to enjoy. So after shaking off the extremely anti-climactic ending to our dinner, my sweetie and I walked across the street for part two of our date: Nye’s.
In this city, Nye’s is something of a legend; it’s a standard location to take visiting guests, to go when celebrating an event (like a birthday, promotion, bachelor/bachelorette, etc.), or to go when you just want a big ol’ authentic Polish meal. It’s a destination surrounded by lots of hype; and in my 14+ years of living in this part of the U.S., I had never been inside Nye’s. So, I figured I should go at least once, and see what the buzz was all about.
Nye’s has no shortage of self-confidence; the entity boasts proudly about their piano bar, polka bar, and overall amazing food. So I was expecting BIG things: larger-than-life space, musical wall of sound, out-of-this-WORLD food, etc. Instead, I found much of Nye’s to be pretty ‘average’.
The ‘piano bar’ was literally a small piano (not a stand-up, but also not quite a baby grand) with an 8-seat bar that wrapped around the perimeter of the instrument. As in, an 18″ wood counter was physically affixed to the outside edge of the piano, and people sat at said counter, facing the piano player. Odd. (Who serves the drinks?) The whole set-up was tiny. That’s a piano bar? Heck, I could host one of those in my own house…
The ‘polka bar’ wasn’t much better.
The polka band itself was pretty terrible (they played an odd assortment of polka covers of modern songs [like "Sweet Caroline" and "Folsom Prison Blues", among others...], and their singing and drumming were mediocre at best) – but the polka band isn’t really there for the entertainment factor. They are present more for the ambiance. People don’t come to Nye’s for a concert; they come to Nye’s to drink, and to get drunk, and to say they heard polka while doing so. And this is one task at which this old bar excels. The staff at Nye’s pour some STIFF drinks – and the bar itself is old-school: smoke-infused, liquor-infused, light-deprived, the-bartenders-leave-you-alone (unless you get vulgar or violent) get-your-booze-on kind of a bar.
This scene reminded me of some really gritty bars I used to semi-visit when I first moved to the city (another story for another time) – and that part of Nye’s actually felt really comforting. It was a bit like being transported to an earlier time in my life, one more innocent and youthful (and also more complicated and painful in some ways – but funny how memory can be selective and conveniently ‘ignore’ those parts…); and I felt oddly ‘at home’ sitting in the dark, cool space.
But then some mid 20-somethings came in, and started partying (celebrating a birthday), and the mood of ‘old school bar’ was lost, and the tone turned more to a slightly-refined-version of a ‘college drink fest’ – and my interest in Nye’s waned. I turned to my sweetie – and he sensed that I had pretty much had “the experience”, and would be happy to go home any time now. A few minutes later, we left.
So now I can say I’ve been to Nye’s. Instead of continuing to wonder what it’s like, I now know what I’m not missing. ;)