The former Mason-Dixon space is now Sons of Essex, 2011’s version of an old timey restaurant. Where once there was a mechanical bull, now lies a warm, wood and brass filled dining room with pictures of old New York, low lighting, and bookshelves. The photos are from the Tenement Museum, and the complimentary pickles are from Gus’s, signaling an equal appreciation of tradition and trends. The main dining room lies behind a deli counter, an almost speakeasy feeling location, but not quite so obnoxiously placed as some others. Also, despite hosting Padma Lakshmi’s birthday, and an after party for the latest Twilight movie, we had no trouble getting a table.
This place pushed all of my New York history and cheese-loving buttons. Meals begin with complimentary cornbread and pickles, a combination that made me suspicious at first, like a search engine optimized meal, calculated to hit all of the trendy food buttons, and keep people coming back. Well, it works. The cornbread is faintly spicy, and entirely buttery, the pickles unimpeachable. There’s a collection of sharable grilled cheese sandwiches, with apples, with truffles, in various meat combinations. Mac and cheese is also for the table, the version with caramelized onions creamy, sweet, and addictive. THere are also flatbread pizzas, just in case you need another iteration of carbs and cheese (I probably do). The cocktails are great too, including one with honey and peppercorns that I will definitely be back for.
The soundtrack was all early nineties hip hop, which incidentally pairs nicely with mac and cheese, but I kept wanting them to add some jazz in their, or each least switch up their artists. It’s hard being a repressed former radio dj. Anyway, while I could see this place being overhyped and overcrowd later, I am happy to return, especially for more amazing cheese based dishes, and creative cocktails.