Buttered noodles have been relegated to the kids' menu for too long, shamed as a plain dish, something only someone with a 5-year-old palate could appreciate. As a devotee of the simple combination in my own home-cooking, I'm pleased that the dish is given exalted status at Bill's Townhouse, the third recent incarnation of the space that housed beloved Bill's Gay Nineties.
Not much has changed decor-wise with the new ownership. As the name indicates, the restaurant and bar are located in a creaky old 19th century townhouse on East 54th Street. A garden level bar is bursting with local suits during happy hour drinking Old Fashioned cocktails much like patrons would have done in the space's Prohibition/speakeasy days. On weeknights around 7:30, someone shows up to play piano and sing and the room takes on a more romantic air.
Upstairs in the main dining room—which feels a bit like a hunting lodge and a haunted mansion's love child—it's a quieter affair with white tablecloths and lots of candlelight, though the soundtrack on a recent press visit included Michael Jackson and Al Green to stave off stuffiness.
The food mirrors the restaurant's retro feel, offering dishes like Lobster Thermidor ($25), Scallop Newburg ($26) and Beef Wellington for two ($130). They're doing a very solid rendition of Baked Clams ($16), spiced with garlic and red pepper flakes with some smokey bacon for added flavor. The Bone-In Filet Mignon ($57) is a beast of piece, 16 ounces of salt and char that could be cut with a butter knife.
Skip the Grilled Pork Tenderloin ($25), which was tender and well-cooked but suffered from a too sweet sauce and boring fried rice. Instead, get those storied Buttered Egg Noodles ($11), wide ribbons of perfectly-cooked pasta tossed in a light butter sauce and Maldon salt. If you think that's too boring (it's not, agree to disagree), the noodles have nightly specials like meatballs or seasonal vegetables. But it's okay to just order them in their simplest form and pretend you're back at the kiddie table—only this time with wine.
57 East 54th Street, (212) 518-2727; bills54.com