When boxing-themed piano bar Bill’s Gay ‘90s closed down in 2012 after 90 years on 54th Street, history buffs and cocktail fans alike mourned its passing. A new restaurant, run by Crown Group’s John DeLucie and Sean Largotta, then quickly moved into a slightly updated space, but closed after three years. But last month a successor, dubbed Bill’s Townhouse, opened in its space, and after a meal there at the invitation of the restaurant we can say that it’s off to a very promising start.
Run by restaurateur Curt Huegel, who founded LDV Hospitality, the new restaurant pours on the nostalgia, and the restaurant is all the better for it. The downstairs bar was packed after work on a recent Thursday night, but the second floor dining room was more subdued. The space certainly still has that lived-in feel, and takes on a comfortable, homey vibe thanks to dark blue walls with plenty of framed art, primarily etchings, on them. Service was friendly and knowledgeable, and the wine list was surprisingly affordable.
As for that nostalgia, it makes its presence known throughout the menu. Appetizers include steak tartare, lobster thermidor, and several varieties of house-made buttered egg noodles, which you certainly don’t see too often anymore. While our waiter recommended a dish of them topped with veal and porcini meatballs, we opted to try them as-is. Closer to pappardelle than any other pasta variety, they were served in a simple butter sauce and were classic, comforting, and undeniably delicious. We also enjoyed seared Hamachi with cashew, miso, and lime, undoubtedly the most modern appetizer. Raw bar offerings, including oysters, clams, lobster, shrimp cocktail, and lump crabmeat, are also welcome.
The entrées go big on the beef, in the form of a New York strip, a bone-in filet, a bone-in ribeye, a porterhouse for two, and beef Wellington for two (talk about a throwback). The filet was tender, buttery, and perfectly cooked (honestly, the best filet we’ve had in a while), and the veal chop had a perfect crust on the top and a flavorful herb rub on the bottom. Bill’s Townhouse also offers yellow cake for dessert, and we suggest you try it; it’s rich and buttery, slightly dense but still light, and most likely much better than the yellow cake you’re used to.
Piano has returned to the downstairs bar room (now called the tavern) on Mondays through Fridays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., and the private party room on the third floor, complete with its own bar in the front room and a back dining room (above) that looks like it’s been designed by the folks behind Sleep No More, looks like an ideal place for a gathering.
Success is never a guarantee, but after the short reign of Bill’s Food and Drink, it looks like this legendary space is finally home to the restaurant it deserves.