21 Club and Monkey Bar, eat your heart out. There’s finally a new power scene spot in the no man’s land that is midtown, dubbed the The Polo Bar, and it’s single-handedly reviving the notion of “see and be seen.” Throngs of food and lifestyle writers have gushed about random Rihanna, Beyonce, and Barbara Walters sightings at this hot, New York haunt. Me, I want to gush about the burger.
This pampered patty is a work of art where comfort food is concerned. The Polo Bar’s rendition of the American classic is a surprisingly gratifying one; a juicy patty with the proper beef to bun ratio, layered with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheddar and perfectly crispy bacon on a sesame-studded potato bun. And it comes with some of the best fries in town to boot — the hand-cut, crispy, salty kind you dream about when you get a craving — which arrive in a fancy silver cup with ketchup, of course. And to think, I almost didn’t get the burger. After all, it’s not exactly the kind of place you feel comfortable rolling up your sleeves and eating with your hands. Oh no, you’ll want to dress the part and most definitely dress up to spend an evening here.
The Polo Bar Burger
The restaurant itself is like something straight out of a Ralph Lauren ad. Glamorous, chic and timeless, the bi-level space is furbished with to-die-for, plush brown leather banquettes that you won’t want to vacate, oversized plaid pillows, and mahogany wood paneling, dotted appropriately with plenty of equestrian art. Upstairs, there’s a sexy bar where the barkeeps make an admirable Manhattan, served up in etched crystal glassware, and an adjacent, intimate nook with a cozy fireplace. All the tables are dotted with itty bitty silver bowls filled with nuts, homemade potato chips, and fried olives so addictive I could eat them like popcorn. But perhaps the best thing they’ve got going is fabulous lighting that flatters just about everyone who steps foot inside.
As you might imagine, The Polo Bar’s probably the most fashionable place to eat in America right now, so you’ll want to plan far in advance. No reservation? Don’t even bother trying to grab a drink at the brass-topped oak bar as it’s only for guests with reservations. And yes, there’s an elegantly dressed gatekeeper armed with an Ipad to make sure you don’t sneak in. But don’t give up that easily! It’s entirely worth playing the reservation game to dine at The Polo Bar, even if you have to swallow your pride and take the Tuesday at 6pm slot. Why? Because it feels like you’re dining in one of Ralph’s handsome homes on what he likes to eat, much of which will surprise you, like Corned Beef on Rye.
A corned beef sandwich in this gorgeous room filled with gorgeous people? Why not? A tasty riff on a Reuben, two slices of marble rye cradle house-brined corned beef coated with melted swiss cheese and a zippy horseradish coleslaw. Ironically, one of my favorite things on the menu at The Polo Bar are the Pigs in a Blanket, tasty proof that this clubhouse doesn’t take itself too seriously. These little dogs are wrapped up in a warm, buttery pastry and served with a whole grain mustard for dipping. I mean, how often do you get to eat fun, finger food in such a glamorous setting among the likes of Ivanka Trump?
And whatever you do, try a steak or three. I’m torn between the Bone-In Rib Eye and the Polo Bar Strip Steak, both wondrously charred on the outside, wickedly tasty and tender within, with an addictive Spicy Garlic Sauce. The strip is a killer cut, indelibly crusty, with plenty of juices to swipe those fantastic French fries through. (Though I did enjoy the Filet Mignon, too, but missed the great char.) Beef is definitely the way to go at The Polo Bar if you want to do it right and the steaks are on par with some of the best steakhouses in the country. And when the season strikes, the meat will hail from Lauren’s very own Double RL Cattle Ranch in Colorado, though to be honest, you won’t see me complaining about the current state of steaks as is. As for sides, there’s seriously luscious mashed potatoes and hen of wood mushrooms, both a natural marriage with these meats.
What to nibble on before your steak while you scan the room filled with celebrities, fashion types, and big hitters? My vote is the BLT salad with more of that terrific, Berkshire bacon and an herbaceous yogurt dressing, or a flavorful Tuna Tartare, laced with sesame seeds, avocado, and shallots, anointed with a soy ginger dressing. The Polo Bar has some solid raw bar offerings as well, like extra plump Shrimp Cocktail and first rate Montauk Pearl Oysters.
If you simply can’t stomach the idea of red meat for one reason or another, there are many other, appetizing options on the menu, like Dover Sole with a Lemon Butter Sauce or Grilled Branzino. Heck, there’s even a vegetarian menu with a fine Chilled Spring Pea Soup, Warm Vegetable Salad, and a Veggie Burger. Really, the only disappointment I encountered over several visits were the Crab Cakes encrusted in a tad too much Phyllo and an overdressed Kale Caesar.
With so much satisfying comfort food on the savory side of the menu, it’s hard to save room for dessert. But if you somehow manage to do just that, sample the decadent Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart and the Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce, while you people watch an attractive flurry of fashion types, celebrities and big hitters.
Truth to be told, I was wary to review The Polo Bar at all. Full disclosure: I know the Lauren family well, but after five visits, I think it would be a disservice not to share just how special it is to sit in this fabulous room and how genuinely delicious most of the food is here. And it would most definitely be a travesty not to gush about the burger and those magnificent steaks.
And if you thought the power lunch scene was dead for good, think again because The Polo Bar plans to open for lunch very soon.