While we were sitting at our cafe table at Studio Kraut on a busy Saturday afternoon, a friend swooshed up to me to say hi. We got to talking about how the city changes, neighborhoods change, and there are times when 8th Avenue in Chelsea can feel like it is struggling beneath the weight of empty storefronts and nail salons. This restaurant seems to be trying to breathe new life into its old shell at the corner of 8th avenue and 18th street.
We sipped on our first round of drinks as we debated the ups and downs of a neighborhood. The Blutorange Margarita comes frozen and is well suited to a warm summer day. I squealed, delighted, upon seeing the deep green candy fruit slice garnishing my refreshment. It was one of my favorite candies when I was younger. The Urban Basil, another excellently mixed drink is gin based and mixed with peach puree and muddled basil. It slid sweet across the tongue trailed by its fresh herb flavor.
We started our meal with the Cast Iron Baked Brie and it was divinely sinful! Sweet and pungent with crunchy pecans. Gooey-sexy and served with the perfectly made toast, this appetizer is perfect for two or three people.
Studio Kraut had wanted to bring something more to 8th avenue. Pounds and Ounces (the former incarnation in this space) transitioned to Studio Kraut as art from local galleries was brought in and mixed with street art and a flash of cabaret bring a sharp and playful Berlin vibe to the place. Staff uniforms were rid of and servers were encouraged to bring their personality. The result is a little magical and theatrical.
One of the features of their menu is the Chicken Schnitzel. It is lightly breaded and pan fried chicken with a beautifully sunny side egg and herbs atop mashed peppercorn potatoes and haricots verts and a dill cream sauce. It was a hit with my brunch companion and quite a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. I opted for the Breakfast Pizza, recommended by our server Matthew, it is built upon an odd tomato flatbread pizza crust with kielbasa, tomatoes, avocado, scallion hollandaise and a fried egg. This is spectacular.
Kieran, the general manager, took me on a tour of the place, letting me know what the story is behind the art of Studio Kraut. In the windows, artists are featured from local galleries, and the pieces are occasionally rotated. There are a few other pieces hanging about the bar as well. The walls are covered in street art by Russell King and Hek Tag and, if read left to right around the room, display styles from Berlin, to Brooklyn, to Manhattan and then showcase a NYC skyline. Beyond an iconic scroll shaped bar that was central to the old restaurant’s design lies a bed for lounging and sipping cocktails. This transforms into a stage for evening entertainment on Thursdays at 10pm when they offer up burlesque shows.
A second round of cocktails proved necessary to wash down our rich entrees, so we opted for a tequila based drink with spicy jalapeno and watermelon puree dubbed The Dietrich and an extra playful alcoholic mango popsicle by Citysticks floated in a coupe of prosecco. These provided proof that the cocktail game at Studio Kraut is definitely on point. If you are just looking for a drink, this is the perfect place to do that. Happy hours are daily until 7pm.
For dessert, we ordered a triple chocolate soufflé. Piping hot and topped with white chocolate flakes, it was bittersweet and perfect for a cooler day. I left at the end of my meal with a buzz and a feeling of electricity from the good time we had here. Studio Kraut has a good thing going with this new life of theirs.
Studio Kraut is located at 160 8th Avenue in Manhattan and has a full menu and links to their events schedule on their website at http://www.studiokrautnyc.com.