It takes a minute to figure out what's going on at Emmett's on Grove, the brand new, self-described "gathering place" from Emmett Burke, a Chicago-area native who's been serving deep-dish pizza at his other restaurant (Emmett's) on Macdougal since 2013.

There's no sign out front here for one thing, except for a vintage neon number that reads Welcome Schaefer People. The building itself is a classic West Village charmer, built in 1905—prior to Burke's arrival the street-level space was home to the Lederhosen Bierhaus, the Grove Street Playhouse, and to an Italian tile company before all of that. The latter's handiwork can still be seen on the floor of the entryway, right before you hit the wide, welcoming marble bar, which Burke salvaged from a bowling alley in Ohio.

Make your way through the crowd to the spacious dining in the back for more bowling alley relics--those baller booths, for example, all come to us via a Midwestern Brunswick Lanes.

There are several Calder prints on the walls, a Cy Twombly in the bathroom, a big photo of Devo, a French-language poster of the 1971 Clint Eastwood film, The Beguiled, and a spinning Schlitz beer light. The music jumps easily from early Rolling Stones to Bryan Ferry crooning "More Than This." Burke explains, sort of...

"It's kind of like a movie or a song that's been playing inside my head for years," he told Gothamist. "It definitely has a pizzeria spirit, but I think it's more about being a gathering place, where you can eat, or drink, or do both. Like you could come here after eating somewhere else and just get a nightcap. Or bring your kids for an early supper. The guiding light for me, and this place, is, how do we get people to enjoy themselves? How do we get people to feel good?"

The offbeat, clubhouse feel here is a good place to start. But it's the food that really cinched the deal for me. The menu, like the decor, is all over the place. "It's just a lot of things that I love to eat," said Burke. "Not exactly crowd favorites, but definitely things that people are familiar with, and maybe haven't seen in a while, and maybe haven't ever seen all together under one roof."

At the core of the menu is the tavern-style pizza, which Burke calls "really the true pizza of Chicago. Deep-dish is more famous outside of Chicago, but people who live there eat tavern pizza much more often." It has a thin, crisp crust (but not cracker-like), it's chewy and cheesy, and the toppings blanket the entire canvas.

The Hot Poppy ($28)

The Hot Poppy ($28)

The Hot Poppy ($28)
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

We had Burke's signature Hot Poppy pie--pepperoni, jalapeño, onion, a generous drizzle of paprika ranch dressing--and it was delicious. You can create your own, though, choosing from among a dozen additional toppings like spicy sausage, bacon, mushrooms, fresh garlic, arugula, and — gulp — pineapple. The pizzas are all cut "party style," into small, square, easily snackable pieces, which makes it ideal for sharing with a crowd or, of course, eating at the bar.

The Baby Back Ribs are excellent, the incredibly tender meat falling off the bone, and slathered in an almost ketchup-like sauce. My dining companion, who hails from Minnesota, called them "extremely Midwestern." The Twice Baked Potato that came with the rack was great, too.

We also enjoyed our Chicken Milanese, especially with those cherry peppers on top, but I kind of envied the nearby table that got the Chicken Parmesan. There's a hefty House Burger and Fries platter available as well.

The Shrimp Cocktail delivered on its promise of bringing plump, snappy crustaceans to the party, redolent with horseradish. Maybe it's the nostalgia talking--as a kid I ate this dish exactly once a year, before every Christmas dinner at my grandparent's apartment on East 67th Street--but these shrimps made me very happy.

Rounding out the menu are a couple of snacks, a couple of salads, and a couple of plates of pasta, including a fantastic Spaghetti and Meatballs. Those well-seasoned meatballs are also available on their own, and should find a way onto your table either way. No desserts, unfortunately... or maybe fortunately, considering how stuffed we already were rolling out of here.

Emmett's on Grove is located at 39 Grove Street, between Bedford and Bleecker Streets, and is currently open on Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m., and on Sunday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. (646-370-3858; @emmettsongrove)