By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
Todd English’s Olives is located in the lobby of the Union Square W Hotel here in New York. The bar is a true gem in a sea of mediocre — and sometimes even tacky — hotel bars. Not to mention being located in an area of the city that is usually considered rather touristy, this bar is a well-kept secret that feels supremely New York.
In the grand scheme of quality New York bars, Olives isn’t overpriced, but it could empty wallets of careless patrons. There are, however, a few ways to get around the more pricey main courses and still have a full meal. Servers bring out delicious bread and olive tapenade for the table (they’ll even bring more if asked nicely). Because I was there around dinnertime, I needed more than just bread. Their side of mac and cheese is $9 and for $10 more I added what was, thankfully, a generous helping of lobster. So, for $19 I actually enjoyed a dinner-sized portion of the best lobster mac and cheese I’ve had.
In the first place, the reason I wound up at Olives on a Friday night is because I have a close friend who doesn’t drink. He remembered having a fantastically crafted mocktail at this bar once before, so in order to cater to our whole group we thought it would be fun to check it out. Olives is still serving well-crafted, non-alcoholic “mocktails” for patrons who don’t drink or are underage. That’s an automatic plus for me because I’ve been plenty of places that don’t cater to folks who choose not to drink.
Though where Olives gives patrons’ wallets a break on appetizers, they make their money back the only way good bars know how. I paid $16 for a classic old fashioned with Bulleit bourbon, but at least I can say it was the strongest old fashioned I’ve had to date. If all of the cocktails are as strong as this one, then at least customers are getting what they paid for. I’d rather pay $16 knowing it’s going to be a good, strong one than pay $10 or $12 two or three times over.
As I previously stated, this hotel bar is an absolute gem — and the staff is a big part of the reason why. The host and hostess are polite, personable, and helpful. For young group, my party and I didn’t at all feel out of place. The waiters and busboys were all extremely attentive, which is appreciated. My only point of criticism here is that I was taking my time with my food because of its richness and one busboy came by at least twice to take my food away when I still had at least 1/3 of a plateful left. Not a cardinal sin, however.
Unfortunately, Olives is a bit of a wallet-drainer, so I can’t make this bar a weekly go-to. I will be returning whenever I’ve got superfluous cash on hand.