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Credit: Whitney Gentile

The meatpacking district is not an area I often find myself in. I’m not a club person, I can’t afford to shop at Restoration Hardware, and cobblestones are hard on my (beautiful, perfect & extensive) heel collection.  I will be making an exception from now on because Invite Only, a new lounge-y restaurant on Gansevoort, is absolutely fabulous.

Credit: Whitney Gentile
Credit: Whitney Gentile

The decor is truly stunning. You walk in through a hall of vines and into a deep, open space with cushy round booths, a circle of couches in the center, and a wall of candles. (Dozens and dozens of candles.) The lighting is spectacular, complete with a huge chandelier that hangs right in the center of the room.

Credit: Whitney Gentile
Credit: Whitney Gentile

Once I got past the gorgeous room, I was able to concentrate on the dishes placed in front of me. I love Shrimp Cocktail. I love all forms of shrimp, really. But THIS version was served with shrimp that had been grilled and then chilled. They were accompanied by a cocktail sauce that contained avocados, which made it more like a salsa – (and was most assuredly why it was served with chips.) We were then served a Kale and Roasted Corn Salad. Here’s the thing. I don’t like kale. As a general rule, I find it too bitter to eat. (I certainly don’t understand this fad of putting it in smoothies, but that’s a rant for another day.) This salad, however, is absolutely fantastic. The bitterness of the kale was beautifully complimented by the sweetness of the corn and the citrusy Lemon-Lime Vinaigrette.

Credit: Whitney Gentile
Credit: Whitney Gentile

The main courses were, somehow, even better. We had crispy Fried-Chicken Sliders, on Hawaiian bread with Cajun coleslaw. They were served with a delicious cold pasta salad. But MY hands-down favorite dish was the Pineapple Kalbi. The short ribs are flavored by a pineapple soy marinade and finished with sesame seeds. The dish is completed with a kimchi coleslaw and crisp lettuce on the side. I layered the slaw and the meat and wrapped all of it in lettuce and I am so glad I did. It might be the first time I’ve attended a menu tasting where I’ve unashamedly polished off the entire dish, and wished there was more.

Credit: Whitney Gentile
Credit: Whitney Gentile

I was also given the opportunity to try several of the cocktails on their list. The Swinger – a raspberry, bourbon, cayenne pepper concoction – was fruity and delicious, with a nice spice that hits at the end. We tried the Cabana Cafe – which contains cafe liquor, spiced rum, and horchata – expecting it to be sweet and desserty, and were pleasantly surprised to find it balanced with lime juice. The Dead Man’s Curve is excellent, but I’m biased because I LOVE mezcal cocktails. And The Oscar – with gin, homemade ginger syrup, lemon juice and topped with Pacifico – is awesome, summery, and downright dangerous.

We really enjoyed our time at Invite Only, and will absolutely go back. For more information on them, check out their official site. To see the full list of photos from my time there, follow me on Instagram @whitneygentile or use the hashtag #manhattandigest.