Blue Ribbon Beer Garden: An Early Look
To find the entrance to the days-old Blue Ribbon Beer Garden, you'll need to head through the lobby of the Thompson LES hotel, up a staircase and past part of the Blue Ribbon Izakaya dining room. Perhaps that explains why, on a perfect patio day after a rainy weekend in a neighborhood that relishes outdoor drinking, the terrace was mellow and seats were abundant when we stopped by yesterday evening.
If neighbors could easily see this oasis from the street, we suspect they'd fill it to capacity as soon as it opened for the night, snapping up spots at the long wooden tables before stepping up to the register to order rounds of light local, German and Japanese beers plus snacks like boiled peanuts or "numb" chips, potato crisps dusted with Szechuan pepper, which creates that familiar addictive, tingly heat that builds slowly until everything tastes sort of metallic. Patrons might also put down a platter of ribs sided with black eyed pea salad and coleslaw before playing a game of ping pong under a paper lantern-festooned roof that shields half of the space from excessive sun or rain.
After more than 20 years, the Blue Ribbon empire is so entrenched in New York, it hardly needs an introduction; what Eric and Bruce Bromberg started in 1992 with a SoHo brasserie has become an eclectic collection of twelve ventures in this city -- plus an East Village fried chicken joint on the way -- and one out in Las Vegas. But the beer garden adds a new dimension to a group that includes sushi spots, a bakery market and a Brooklyn Bowl location.
The guys are known for putting neighborhood touches on their concepts, and that's reflected here: this beer garden should have no problem attracting an Allen-centric crowd even if it's not exactly in a passerby's line of vision.
An early look:
The "numb" chips, dusted with Szechuan pepper.
The rib platter and accoutrements.
The Blue Ribbon ping pong table.