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Rare Bar & Grill – Midtown, NYC

This restaurant is why I love trying out new restaurants. Our experience here will really help bring balance to an otherwise positive blog. Again we decided to go out with some friends who were in from out of town, and we had read about this restaurant online which was supposed to be a very good burger place. In fact it did turn out to be a fantastic burger – Kobe Beef sauteed in white wine with three cheeses and thick slabs of bacon. What we found out is that its not always the food quality that matters most.
Neighborhood: Manhattan/Midtown
303 Lexington Ave. @ 37th Street
New York, NY
(212) 481-1999

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My first impression of this place was that it was loud. I mean it is a “Bar & Grill” but Nirvana blasting to a Midtown crowd? I’m not all that picky about that though, if I wanted a quiet night I’d have gone back to Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse. Our feeling going into this place was that we wanted 1) a great burger 2) to try a new restaurant 3) not spend more than $50/person. We did accomplish all three goals but we would have been phenomenally successful if our fourth goal was: 4) experience the worst service fax-paux to date.

What did we eat?

Two of us had the chef’s special Kobe Burger ($21), the others had a garden veggie burger, and a Po Boy Beef Brisket. We also had a french fry tasting basket and a bottle of Estancia 2006 Cab. The Kobe burger was great – the bun didn’t fall apart, the thick bacon was tender not chewy, and they nailed the medium-rare for me. One complaint was the yellow tomato (I guess they’re trying to be really fancy) – it was too thick and mushy, kind of like… well just a thick mushy tomato. Regardless, whatever flavor it may have contributed was buried in the rich cheesey, beefy, bacony flavor.

I have one initial gripe which is probably stupid but we ordered a fairly cheap $39 bottle of wine (which was marked up 2x at least from about $12 retail). Yet the waiter still went through the whole towel-on-arm routine with having me taste it then pouring it around, etc. etc. I know it’s a stupid gripe because they probably would do this at McDonalds if they served wine, it’s just how you serve wine but I can’t help but feel a little douchey about it all. Maybe I should have just given it a more thorough sniffy-sniff I may have appreciated it more.

Oh right, there was one other complaint…

The worst service fax-paux ever…

So at the end of the dinner, there was a substantial amount of veggie burger left so we asked the waiter for a box. Without any affirmation, he grabbed the plate after the others and brought it away. For some reason we watched him walk away with the plates (probably because we didn’t believe he heard/understood our box request) and sure enough about 10 feet away, he puts a fricking dirty napkin right on top of the food.

Unreal. The food was hardly touched – what would possess you to think we wanted to throw it away?? At least have the experience/courtesy/common sense to ask if we wanted a box…? I mean, I don’t go to my job and act like I forgot how to use a computer. We’re talking Restaurant-Shit 101 here. You could probably pick up these rules from a blog somewhere – no formal training required. It’s almost like knowing that you shouldn’t kick someone in the ass as they exit your restaurant which is kind of how we felt.

So here’s where it gets really good – our main waiter comes back and brings the check so I say to him “We asked to have her meal put in a to-go box…” He looks at me stupidly, and just reiterates “you wanted her’s to go?” …. um …. YES. So he walks away for a few seconds and comes back and says “We threw it away.” Ok, well I mean – we know, we saw it all, so… I tell him “ok well you can either re-make it or take it off the check.” he asks if we can wait for them to re-make it – I say sure.

…30 seconds later the first waiter comes out with the meal boxed and bagged, sticks it on the table and walks away. So now we’re all looking at each other in disbelief that he just boxed up the trash meal – totally speechless – and our main waiter comes out again, looks confused/shocked to see the boxed meal (it had also been made noticeably smaller – maybe they cut off the edges). So he says “ok so.. oh.. um, ok here you go – is this ok?” (pointing to the box)

The 4 of us just stared at him.

I say (laughing in a pissed “don’t-f*%k-with-me” sort of way) “no absolutely not – WE SAW you put it in the trash first are you f’ng kidding???” Everyone else starts laughing at the absurdity of his question – he grabs it and walks like 10 feet away – he starts talking to the waiter who brought us the trash meal to begin with – and THEY BOTH START LAUGHING !?!? Immediately after he comes back, apologizes and says the meal will be right out. 10 minutes later, the meal comes out (we inspected it, it looked fresh) and we left.

Will I be coming back?

The short answer is a definitive NO.

The good thing about NYC is that you can afford to be picky with your restaurants. I choose to be picky because I think it encourages competition. Having said this I can say with certainty that I will not likely come back until I have exhausted all my other restaurant options in New York and all of them turn out to be worse than this one. This restaurant didn’t wow me, in fact the negatives substantially outweigh the positives since the only positive really was that the food tasted like what I would expect it to taste like for the price. So even saying the food quality was a positive attribute of this restaurant is misleading – it’s more accurate to say food quality wasn’t a negative.

What suggestions would I make?

Hire people who speak English.

When you confuse “Can I have a box for this?” with “Can you please throw this away?” – it’s time to call Rosetta Stone. Please stop cutting corners on service.

(This one’s probably the most obvious) Don’t put our take-home food in the trash before you box it up.

There are really only two words to explain this one: f&%k you.


At $21 a burger, you can eat a great burger. That’s if you don’t mind doing it in a pseudo-fancy-restaurant/hotel-bar with shitty service.

Price per person: ~$39 (total including tax and tip)

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