Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to a barstaurant in Midtown.
American Hall is pretty much what you'd expect it to be. A cavernous, cacophonous restaurant in the Penn Station area where the beer is flowin' and the sports take over the screens. It's on a stretch of West 36th Street with a high demand for places (the block is lined with establishments like The Rag Trader and The Keg Room) appealing to the same clientele. American Hall, which supposedly seats 600, has an extreme sensory stimulation vibe.
There are flat screens tuned to multiple sports channels everywhere you look. There's a modest arcade in the basement bar with six throwback video games (including two of the best from my own misspent youth, Robotron and Stargate), a pair of pool tables, foosball, and a sad area in the exit hallway for darts. There are quotes chalked up on the walls throughout the three-story space. Rock anthems dominate the soundtrack, though these are mostly unintelligible beneath the din. The bathrooms offer no break from the barrage, with tile walls plastered with tacky posters advertising... American Hall, the restaurant you are currently peeing in. There's even a tiny video screen attached to the top of sink faucet, lest you get bored while washing your hands. "More like American Hell amirite" I said to myself, waggishly.
Still, the servers and runners are remarkably prompt and attentive. Even more surprising, given that the priority here for most patrons seems to be the consumption of alcohol, rather than food, the menu is much more ambitious (or, at least, much more varied) than is probably necessary, and everything I ate over two dinners was pretty-to-very good.
The American Hall menu takes you on a long, strange journey through three oversized pages. Chicken Cheese Egg Rolls, Wild Willy's Chili, French Dip Sandwich, Ahi Tuna Poke, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Grits & Butter, and a Blueberry Milk Shake are among the many dishes I did not try. Improbably, the best thing I did eat here was the Peanut Butter Chicken Wings, served with a crock of spicy grape jelly. The bird bits were fat and perfectly cooked, nice and crisp on the outside, juicy within, the PB&J gimmick shockingly successful.
There's a long list of burger options (including one with piled-on pulled pork, and another featuring both spinach dip and avocado), but I stuck with the baseline Bacon Cheeseburger. It was decent, cooked medium-well as warned on the menu, but the toppings were fresh and the requested hot sauce turned out to be Valentina, so I was happy. The real star of the dish, however, were the French Fries, which tasted like actual potatoes and nailed that pleasant crunchy/fluffy texture contrast.
Another surprise winner at American Hall: the Pterodactyl Drumstick, which I was almost too embarrassed to order (it's really a turkey leg, served whole), but am glad I did. I mean, it's a pain in the ass to eat—it's not smoked liked at the Medieval Fest, so it's greasy and slippery and there are too many tendons to really chomp your way through without getting your hands in there—but the meat is rich and gamey, not dry at all, and the accompanying tin of vinegary sauce a thoughtful dipping condiment. Less interesting and way overpriced was the Bacon Mac & Cheese. That workhorse side dish Crispy Brussels Sprouts did its job here fine without leaving much of an impression.
Despite it's being *extra* in all things, American Hall proves to be a solid option next time you want to pregame something at the Garden or need a basic place for a last-minute plan with a bunch of people who want to drink beer and grab a bite in that area.
American Hall is located at 29 West 36th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 2 a.m. (usually). Closed Sundays. (646-259-3999; americanhallnyc.com)