Even the most avid Times Square avoider has to cave sometimes.
Maybe you've got family in town and you're shepherding them around, or perhaps someone gave you tickets to a Broadway show. Whatever the reason, there always seems to be a couple of nights each year when you're put in charge of finding a place to eat around here.
It can be a harrowing experience, even though the immediate area has upped its casual food game a bit (Los Tacos No. 1 comes to mind) — this is, after all, one of the biggest tourist attractions on the planet and lines can be ridiculously long.
Enter the brand new, riotously colored Peachy Keen, an all-day restaurant, coffee counter, dessert spot, and cocktail bar that sits within a block or two of multiple Broadway theaters and all of the now-commodified chaos on what we used to affectionately call the Deuce. The menu is filled with crowd pleasers, the energy is high, and the place is huge, with some 140 seats spread out over several dining rooms, bars and little nooks.
Peachy Keen is billed as a "'70s-inspired eatery," but other than the groovy color scheme, undulating lines and occasional lava lamp, the concept is loosely applied. Yes, "Le Freak" is on the playlist, but so is Jay-Z. And if you show up hoping to dine on bizarre '70s Dinner Party classics like shrimp jello molds and "celery-stuffed celery," you'll be disappointed.
"We've obviously done our homework, and did a deep dive into trends of the era, from music to fashion to food," Patrick Schmidt, the executive director for Peachy Keen's umbrella organization, HK Hospitality, told Gothamist earlier this week. "And we found that actually mimicking what was popular in the '70s on the food and beverage front was ... less than inspiring."
The menu, which Schmidt says will expand over the coming weeks as the kitchen settles in, includes a decent PK Double Smashburger with gobs of melted cheddar and enough bacon to make you happy, as well as a satisfying Pastrami Reuben on marble rye. The former came with some distressingly wan French fries; the latter with a pile of tangy Caesar salad.
The surprise winner on the night, however, was the Chicken & Dumplings. The kitchen did a great job with the bird itself, which arrived flattened and roasted brick-chicken style, and the chewy ricotta dumplings were a welcome complement. It was also the most '70s dish here, with its TV dinner aesthetics and Howard Johnson vibes.
Two other semi-ambitious dishes didn't fare as well. The Crab & Corn Beignets were acrid and soggy, and the Truffled Mac & Cheese, while appropriately gooey and housing an impressive number of wild mushrooms, needed some sort of vinegary punch.
Schmidt hopes that desserts will be a big part of the draw here and they've got a special swirly machine that can create a Blizzard-like soft serve ice cream treat. I've never been to a Dairy Queen, so can't say how it compares to the classic, but the Peachy Keen version, loaded with cookies and candy, is shockingly sweet. The other dessert I tried, a Peach Tart, was definitely a more subdued adventure.
Hell's Kitchen Hospitality operates more than a half dozen spots in both its namesake neighborhood and in Astoria, and Peachy Keen is a complete rebrand and redesign of their previous venture in this space, the New York Brewing Company, a cavernous sports bar that shuttered for good when Covid hit town.
The team is counting on Peachy Keen's new visual energy to get people in the door, especially tourists and the theater crowd — the place was designed by Wid Chapman, who also did Dhamaka on Delancey Street. But equally important is the approachable, family-friendly menu, which is what will drive repeat visits from Hell's Kitchen locals.
"We really love how playful the concept is," Schmidt said. "This is our fourth location in this area so we know it very well — I personally lived here for six years — and with everything we do, we always try to cater to the neighborhood. Especially coming out of a pandemic, when the community here is really what got us from A to Z, and helped us survive."
Peachy Keen is located at 321 West 44th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, and is currently open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and from 11 a.m. to 12 midnight Thursday through Saturday; peachykeennyc.com.