Nestled behind the unmarked door of an upscale pawnshop of the same name, Beauty and Essex is a New York City experience that everyone should have. In a city full of places that are popular and yet eerily similar to one another, Beauty and Essex has a unique appeal.
Once you walk through the pawnshop and enter the restaurant, you’ll notice that it’s almost always crowded (if personal space is your thing, then this might not be the best spot for you).
The venue is split into two floors. The downstairs is slightly quieter, with more of a restaurant feel—there’s a small bar and some lounge seating, but mostly dining tables going though to the back of the restaurant. (This place is quite massive for a restaurant in the city, but still always has an intimate ‘buzz.’) The colors are dark, purple and antique gold with mahogany here and there—no doubt it’s a very sexy space, but not so much so that you’d feel uncomfortable bringing along platonic guests, out-of-towners or even your parents when they visit.
Up the grand staircase (the upstairs being my preferred location in the restaurant, although it is slightly harder to obtain a reservation), the interior is similar. There’s a large bar in the middle along with lounge seating opposite the bar. The upstairs dining room is also known as the “locket room,” as it’s walls are covered in antique lockets. Meanwhile, to the left of the bar there is a V.I.P. lounge for those who are doing bottle service. The vibe upstairs is a little louder, a little trendier and for lack of a better word—a bit more New York.
The music is a mix of top 40 and general lounge vibes, and its always on point. Everyone here is quite trendy and maybe even a little bit hipster (who isn’t these days) and celeb sightings are extremely common. Drake and Rihanna have hung out here, Katy Perry is known to frequent and the last time I was here, “Stiffler” from American Pie (Shh, you don’t know his name either) was hanging out with a harem of beautiful women (unsurprisingly).
The menu is quite varied but it’s all tapas style so you can try a good chunk of it during your visit. Standout examples include the grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings (it’s their signature dish! And it’s awesome!), the empanadas (my favorite), the brick-pressed chicken and anything from the raw bar.
The drinks here are pretty good too. Since it is technically a ‘speakeasy,’ they’ve got a pretty solid cocktail list—not as good as, say Underdog or Angel’s Share, but better than most places. Standouts include the “Emerald Gimlet” and “Earl the Pearl.”
Finally, the desserts. They are all fantastic and beautifully presented and an absolute must. The best ones are the Box of Doughnuts and Petite Cupcakes, both of which come in a box that you can use to take your sweet treats home if you don’t feel like having all of them in one go.
(Pro tip—and this ones for the ladies: On weekends, there’s a free glass of bubbly in the women’s restroom to keep you company as you make it back past the crowds to your drink at the table. Gentlemen…I think there might be like, a matchbox or something in our restroom….don’t hold your breath, though.)