When 2nd Floor on Clinton closed last July….a lot of people had no clue (it was a speakeasy, after all).
But for those who liked to head to the back of Barramundi’s (which also shuttered) for a chance to be whisked upstairs, a giant hole opened up in their LES nightlife options. Where to surprise that date when you’re feeling fancy, or unwind after going a little too hard at Pianos? Second Floor was always the perfect combination of class and comfort, with some of the most inventive cocktails around (I was once served a drink garnished with a cluster of enoki mushrooms).
Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long– the space was picked up right away by longtime restauranteurs (and childhood friends) Tim Gashi (Rocky Slims) and Valentino Gjekaj (Arté), with plans to turn it into a Crif Dogs/PDT-style restaurant-and-speakeasy. The theme is based on Clinton Street’s former life as the 1920s bank Garfunkel & Tauster (still engraved on the building), which turned out to be a criminal operation. (Indeed, Clinton Street has quite the colorful past of hucksters and criminals to draw upon. Down the street, Marm Café is named after Mother Mandelbaum, the kingpen of a criminal gang in the 1800s.)
The bottom floor is still under construction, with a casual burger joint set to open in a month or so (it’ll be called the Burgary– get it?). Decorated with graffiti, it will serve Pat LaFrieda meat along with milkshakes and usual diner sides, like tater tots and salads. But upstairs, Garfunkel’s is already open for business (if you have the code), so we stopped by.
Gashi and Gjekaj, thankfully, had the sense not to mess too much with 2nd Floor on Clinton’s laidback recipe. It still has that dim sensual lighting punctuated by flickering candles, and the couch-style chairs to put you at ease. But the 1920s/30s vibe is punched up for more effect. The bookcase and throw pillows are still in place, but some walls are covered with little old-style picture frames. (That new touch might have felt like an Anthropologie catalogue background, except it’s so dim you probably won’t even notice them.)
The cocktail menu, by Lucinda Sterling (Little Branch), is on point with creative takes on well-loved classics, but doesn’t seem quite as ambitious as 2nd Floor used to be. No mushrooms here — but hey, that mushroom drink actually tasted like medicine, and there are still some interesting surprises, like the TNT, a tequila drink with spicy tamarind, orgeat, habanero bitters and lemon.
Gashi says that walk-ins will be allowed if space is available, but it’ll also be easy for customers to reserve online. They’ll be given a personal code which they can punch into the “bank vault” door in the back of the Burgary. For now, just hang around out front and look casual.
Garfunkel’s, 67 Clinton Street, bet. Rivington and Stanton. Open Sunday–Wednesday 6pm- 2am and Thursday- Saturday, 6pm-4am. Expect an afternoon high tea from 3pm-6pm featuring select tea, champagne, and small bites.