>> Wednesday, May 1, 2013
106-11 71st Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
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.