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Houston Hall: Raise a Glass!


People! It’s ‘HOUSE’-ton’ Hall–like the SoHo street name.

Remember it. Manhattan finally has its first distinct mead-and-greet bar since, well, the Koch Administration.

We all have wide-eyed friends who visit us in Manhattan, the so-called “City That Never Sleeps”, and are perplexed when we say to them, “Well, I dunno…New York has become kind of…dull…these days…” We trail off like oldsters, quitters.

It’s hard to comprehend, but if you have done time here–amazing, enlightening, mother-hubbard, S-I-C-K-ass time here, say, a dozen years or so will do, the nightlife-and-dining-out scenes begin to feel repetitive, despite all those venues, coming and going, mostly going, like smoking in bars.

Ever notice how everything is following some scripted business plan that is bound for failure due to ubiquity of concept? Like you have to be a brasserie, a bistro, or some one-named nightclub to pay your $50K-a-month rent? Then they blame it on how costly it is to run a spot here? How many Northern Italian joints, or French bistros, can one city hold without folding the hand and heading back to Wall Street?

Now THAT is a BIG build-up, but we predicted it, and it came, and it’s as good as we thought.

Houston Hall: on Houston Street, downtown, West Side, across from indie-movie haven Film Forum, next to The Brooklyneer gastropub, and below that an AA meeting sanctum (poor dudes!). This gargantuan ale house–and fine drinks too, and shockingly good comfort food and snacks–amazes.

When first-timers walk in, they can’t help it. Out comes the camera phone. It’s gorgeous in all its architectural sparseness. Look at the photos, included here, mostly thanks to the Hall website ( and UrbanDaddy. We don’t get to see actual “stars” often in NYC, that is, the celestial ones. But here, you can actually BREATHE, and look up and see a wooden skyscape (at lunch, sunlight pours in from the old banded skylights), not feel claustrophobic in a room of, oh, say 250 capacity?

The rafters, the INSIDE street lamps, the coat hooks lining an entire wall, the faded glory of this old auto garage’s walls….frankly, we don’t care if the place is full of the most douche-baggy drinkers you have ever seen puking–and it isn’t, there’s an odd, awed respect for where they are, what luck they have. Brick, mortar, stools, picnic tables designed to hold the cast of “Jethro Tull: The Musical.”

We dig. And in all its ye-olde glory, there’s only one TV screen, which is like 14 feet tall, and retracts. “It’s bigger than the screen at Film Forum,” half-joked a friend. And if a game isn’t on, it’s gone. Drink, me-lads, drink!

You know those circa-1900s dudes immortalized in bronze, eating lunch on a scaffolding? They’d go here. So would this jaded imbiber, and we do.

Here, let’s let “UrbanDaddy” takeover. The beers: “Brewed in Greenpoint just for them. (It’s glorious.) Pilsners. Chocolaty porters. A wheat beer called Marco’s Wit that’ll pair perfectly with warmer weather (blood orange is involved).
“They all go great with their booze-sopping classics like the bacon-cheddar-blue grilled cheese from Milk Truck and sesame chili wings. Because… wings and beer, that’s why.”

We go back for the chicken livers with crostini from nearby Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen. And we loved the buffalo chicken dumplings, the blue-cheese-and-vinaigrette bibb salad, and all those grilled cheeses. And now they’re letting us take it all to-go. It’s been open about a month now, and the herds have gotten the word. For a calmer look, go on a Monday or during the daytime. Otherwise, plan to get a beer shower. Who cares?

Here’s the info: Houston Hall, 222 W Houston St. (at Downing St.), 212-675-9323,