>> Wednesday, May 1, 2013

106-11 71st Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-5000

The age of the Forest Hills gastropub has arrived. First, Jack and Nellies, which while technically a wine bar, has a great beer selection and an impressive menu. Then, Banter shows up, renovating a space that I thought could only make money as an AT&T store. The Flying Pig is in the process of being built in the old Johnny Rockets space and Station House just opened to throngs of drinkers on 71st in what used to be Marianella's Taqueria. I guess that, when it comes to beer and whiskey, if you build it, they will come.

I call Station House a gastropub because of their menu, which inlcudes a range of small plates similar to bar food, but which are different enough to demonstrate that there's some effort going on in the kitchen. Still, in the range between bar and restaurant, Station House is much closer to being a bar. The interior is unrecognizable from it's taqueria days, with lots of wood, the yellow glow of Edison bulbs, and heavy wrought iron replacing the bright, fast food yellow walls of old. The central bar dominates the interior and at night it's standing room only - crowds of thirty-somethings pouring out into the street. There are no less than ten flat screen televisions playing sports. Station House's lamentable TV addiction notwithstanding, its beer list is impressive and the odds are that you haven't heard of half of what they offer. Dozens of beers are in bottles or on tap and the whiskey list isn't small. The off-menu rotating list is displayed on two of the flat screen televisions, rotating through the selection of about twenty temporary brew options. Not to beat the flat screen horse too severely, I wish that the owners, who run George Keeley in Manhattan, stuck with the chalk board for beer rotations. It's just less tacky.

Anyway, horse beaten.

Pike and I showed up smack in the middle of happy hour for an early dinner and drinks. The crowd this evening ranged from yuppies just out of the office to guys in hockey jerseys sitting at the bar glued to ESPN to hipsters covered in tats to older couples chatting by the window.

My starter was the Smoked Meat Tacos. Three tacos, one each of "in house smoked" chicken, brisket, and pulled pork. The appetizer was very large (maybe that's why they call it a shared plate) but not very good. Bland and dry, to be honest. I like tacos, but won't get these again. My dinner was the Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich, a huge piece of chicken, buttermilk battered and fried, with cole slaw on a brioche roll. And this, unlike the tacos, was incredible. It came with french fries, which were good, but the real experience was the chicken. I can't recommend it enough. Pike ordered Poutine, fries with cheese curd and gravy (Pike grew up sucking down disco fries on Long Island so the Canadian original was right up his alley), and the Turkey Grill Sandwich, a turkey sandwich with gruyere cheese on texas toast. Dipping the turkey sandwich in the poutine gravy, Pike said "y'know, this was a really good sandwich without the gravy, but now it's a great one." Not having tried the turkey with or without any gravy, I'll take his word for it. I did steal some of his poutine, and I liked it a lot. If I ever want to put on a few pounds, I know what I'll order to do it.

If you like beer bars with lots of variety and enjoy or at least don't mind very crowded spaces, then Station House is the gastropub for you. If you want a more restauranty atmosphere, then you probably won't like it very much. Pike and I didn't stay late. We left before 8pm. But it was filling up, if not full, and in the rear table section, because of the fifteen or so office guys hanging out, we might have been then only people sitting down. Maybe our experience is unusual, but it was certainly loud. Station House is the kind of bar that only a few years ago, I never would have thought would have appealed to the demographic of the neighborhood. And yet there it is, packing 'em in.

Maybe Forest Hills can be a barhop destination after all... That'd be pretty awesome.

Beer prices range from about what you'd expect to way more. Appetizers average $9 and sandwiches average $12.


Anonymous,  May 1, 2013 at 11:53 PM  

I loved the austin burger. iIm a sucker for a fried egg on anything. The pulled pig taco i thought was really good but the others were disappointing. The wings arent bad. Theyre fucking huge. Dont expect the standard size

Circa Style May 2, 2013 at 9:48 AM  

As seemingly one of the few under-30 Forest Hills residents, I am so glad to see this little Gastro Pub invasion going on! Finally, places to drink with beer lists beyond Bud and Coors, and to bring your friends from Williamsburg and not be embarrassed!

Have you seen that wine bar Keuka Cafe has opened on Queens Blvd and 75th? That place is all around fantastic!

Anonymous,  June 6, 2013 at 10:16 AM  

So when are you reviewing flying pig? we're eagerly awaiting it!

Jon Parker June 6, 2013 at 10:48 AM  

Y'know, I've been to Flying Pig once (that's their sandwich in my Instagram whachamacallit) and I definitely plan to return and do a thorough write up. I also have to do Keuka Kafe and the Turkish place on Metropolitan... SOON!

Anonymous,  June 6, 2013 at 1:12 PM  

And also tu casa on metro is worth trying

Susan June 23, 2013 at 6:14 PM  

Ate at Station House this past week. My friend and split a Poutine and I had the Austin Burger while he had the Steak Sandwich.

The poutine was classic. Fries, gravy and cheese curds. What's not to like? We pretty much gobbled these up.

I REALLY liked my Austin Burger. Based on your review I was close to ordering the buttermilk chicken sandwich, but the waiter gave me the two thumbs up on the burger so that's what I went with. It was cooked perfectly (medium rare) and the arugula and dijon-shallot schmear gave it a peppery/onion flavor. And as someone else already posted -- a fried egg is never bad.

My friend enjoyed his steak sandwich. Interestingly, our waiter (who was really spot on the whole time we were there) said that if you really like a steak sandwich, the one at Banter can't be beat.

I told him not to say that to loud (or to often!), but I know what I'll be trying at Banter in the near future!!

Jon Parker June 24, 2013 at 1:37 PM  

Yes, but the steak sandwich is only for lunch. I had dinner at Banter ten minutes after I read your comment and asked. Haha.

Susan June 25, 2013 at 9:20 AM  

Well then .... lunch it is :)

I'm heading to Lugers tomorrow night, so not going to happen for me this week, but soon!

Anonymous,  June 27, 2013 at 12:13 PM  

When's the next review? I'm starvin'!

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