Just who is Linda Simpson? She’s sassy, classy, stylish, hysterical, and the host of Le Bingo! at Le Poisson Rouge. Every Saturday evening, this drag queen extraordinaire calls out numbers, teases the audience, and leaves everyone at LPR with a smile. Not knowing what to expect from bingo at a nightclub, we were welcomed with open arms and presented with Bingo cards by the Le Bingo! spokesmodel, Natasha. Her duties also included the presentation of the prizes—which consisted of items that could be nothing but garage sale finds like ceramic puppy statues, hologram placemats, and spinning monkey toys—and the spinning of the “Wheel of Chance,” which makes the price of whatever beverage it lands on just $4.
The first item on the menu we experienced, and yes, it was an “experience” was the Truffled Mac and Cheese. We were warned by the bartender, Jesse, that it was so rich that if we were going to try several items, a few bites might be enough to satisfy us. But, he added, it’s nearly impossible to only eat a couple bites of this dish. Most people, he said, order the dish to share, but one person ends up gobbling the whole bowl up. Well, he was right. We couldn’t get enough of this Mac and Cheese! The sauce was made of creamy aged parmesan and truffle oil, and it was topped with a parmesan tuile—essentially like a cheese crisp. The tuile added a wonderfully crunchy texture to the otherwise rich beyond belief pasta and sauce. It’s served with a very simple side salad, which acted as a nice palate cleanser.
We would have devoured this side salad had we not also had the kale salad. It was crunchy and fresh, and very different from your typical summer salad. The squash and pumpkin seeds added a nice sweetness and texture to this healthy bar fare.
Before our next treat, the Grilled Chicken Sliders, arrived, our new best friend Jesse told us that they were his favorite; after having worked at LPR since its opening, he still eats this dish regularly. The sliders were topped with caramelized onions, tomato, pickle, herb mayo, and served on mini Hawaiian buns. The buns were buttery and mildly sweet, almost like a brioche bun, and complemented the sweetness of the onions and the tang of the mayo. With the exception of the crunchy kale salad, these sliders were the most “guilt free” fare we tried, but they still felt indulgent.
We were served the empanadas alongside the sliders, and they did not disappoint. Filled with ground beef, chopped olives, and roasted red peppers with chimichurri sauce for dipping, the empanadas were a savory treat. We were in complete agreement about the Mac and Cheese—it was hand down our favorite—we were split about our other dishes. I, Stefan, preferred the empanadas, and I, Hannah, favored the sliders.
During all of this activity—food, bingo, and Linda Simpson’s hilarity—we had our fill of LPR’s specialty drinks. Jesse informed us that LPR has an official mixologist that crafted these beverages just for this venue. Notable ingredients include blackberry jam, chili infused ginger liqueur, black walnut bitters, and cinnamon—not all in the same drink, of course!
Stefan favored the “Purple Haze,” citing it as “the best drink I’ve ever been served at a bar.” The “Purple Haze” consists of gin, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice, blackberry jam, and a mint leaf garnish. It was naturally very sweet, but not offensively so. The blackberry jam gave the drink a unique flavor that complemented the lime juice. There’s no doubt about the fact that the “Purple Haze” is a strong drink, but the way the flavors blend together is completely balanced, and it doesn’t feel “too” anything other than tasty.
Hannah’s favorite was the “Tea Thyme,” a drink consisting of wild tea vodka, sweet vermouth, homemade thyme syrup, lemon juice, thyme sprig, and lemon wedge. Jesse admitted, and Hannah agreed, that this was the “most dangerous” drink on the menu in the sense that it’s so sweet and easy to drink that you forget it contains a healthy amount of alcohol. Its superlative is definitely a compliment, as it is the one of the most frequently ordered drinks on the menu. The “Tea Thyme” was sweet and refreshing….with a kick. Combined with the sliders, you’ll find a fresh summer meal that can’t be beat.
Our evening concluded with an LPR specialty: milk and cookies! The manager, Ruben, told us that LPR prides itself on being a grown-up venue that actually offers this childhood favorite on their menu. Three plump, gooey, warm chocolate chip cookies were presented with a large glass of milk—the menu says it’s “for drinking”, but for us, it was for dunking! You’d think it would be strange to be sitting in a trendy nightclub snacking on milk and cookies like an after-school snack, but it wasn’t, and they were amazing!
Our experience at Le Poisson Rouge couldn’t have been better. The staff was friendly and fun, Le Bingo! was a riot that we will definitely be returning to, and the food was to die for, unlike any other “bar food” we have encountered. LPR offers more than Le Bingo!—it hosts concerts, DJs, and dance parties. Whatever you’re looking for in a night out, it can probably be found at Le Poisson Rouge. Take your friends, go on a date, and please, order the Mac and Cheese.
Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St, 212-505-FISH, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1 train to Houston, 6 to Bleecker,
–Hannah Kloepfer and Stefan Olson