Bar food has come a long way from peanuts and pickled eggs: As Bon Appetit last year noted in a restaurant trend roundup, cocktails these days are likely to be accompanied by something dainty with kimchi. Downtown at The Gin Joint, for example, the snack selection includes an asparagus Caesar salad; ricotta-stuffed meatballs and pork buns stuffed with mustard green kimchi.
But dedicated cocktail bars – meaning bars which aren’t contained within a larger restaurant – are far less likely to serve the kind of sturdy knife-and-fork food that tavern goers a century ago might have enjoyed before or after a drinking session (prior to Prohibition, saloons and taprooms provided free lunch spreads, but the lineup usually consisted of smoked herring, pickles, fried oysters, calzones and beans, depending on the clientele’s cultural background.) In other words, classic cocktails are rarely accompanied by a classic plate of beef.
At Mash, though, that’s not true on Mondays. The bourbon-proud bar, which shares a portion of The Cigar Factory’s ground floor with sister restaurant Mercantile, offers a plate of prime rib with baked potato and onion rings for $21. Service starts at 6:30 p.m., and ends when the meat supply’s depleted (when I showed up last week at 8:30 p.m., there was still prime rib available.)
Two customers in a row approached the bar while I was waiting for my dinner to ask about the O-Ku sushi roll selection. By modern standards, crab and avocado are ideal mates for a cynar negroni. But salty and substantial are hallowed bar food characteristics for a reason: I swear I’d recommend the prime rib plate even if it didn’t come with a metal ramekin of horseradish cream.
Indigo Road restaurants generally do a good job with red meat: Think of the deckle at The Macintosh or various veal treatments at Indaco. The prime rib is no exception: It’s bloody and charred in all the right places, and offers a tender counterpoint to the stiff-jacketed potato. It’s an excellent steak, thicker than a deck of cards. A restaurant could easily charge $30 for it.
Of course, prime rib night comes but once a week. Other evenings are for exploring Mash’s new food menu, which includes a baby lettuce salad; pork belly banh mi and fried Brussel sprouts. For more information, visit mercandmash.com/bar-mash.