New York, NY (2019) – My Friend Duke, the first space from bartender Zachary Pease of legendary Lower East Side speakeasy Attaboy, is bringing cocktails, food and camaraderie to NYC’s Kip’s Bay. A full-service American cocktail bar serving high-end cocktails alongside wine, beer and a menu of locally sourced light bites—all against the backdrop of a relaxed neighborhood hangout—My Friend Duke brings a decidedly downtown aesthetic to this neighborhood below midtown.
“People who live in Kip’s Bay are used to going downtown for good food and cocktails,” says Pease. “Our logic was to put that right at their doorstep, but in a bigger, brighter space than you would typically find in the Village or the Lower East side.” Pease and his team at New York’s KCC Design, created a large, unique, bi-level space using whitewashed exposed brick with hues of greens and blues, plenty of plants and natural light.
Purposely sparse, the design allows the back bar to shine while creating a unique, appealing place to eat and drink without pretense. “My two favorite cocktail cities in the country are New York and San Francisco and I wanted to mix them in this space,” he adds. “But the nice thing is, the exposed brick allows for a cozy night time atmosphere, while the airy aesthetic provides California highlights—my way of blending east and west.”
The cocktail list has a retro feel and swings from highball to coupe to tumbler. Though they will do a few seasonal specials, most drinks on My Friend Duke’s menu was created to become distinctive favorites with fresh flavors that pop. The Ginger # 3 is the most popular cocktail to date and is the bar’s answer to a spicy mezcal drink, featuring fresh ginger and cayenne balanced with a touch of fresh lime and pineapple. But Pease’s favorite is the Huntsman, a riff on a Scotch boulevardier, which manages to be smoky, bitter and rich all at once. Poured with a mellow Speyside, it’s coupled with Laphroiag, a dry Amargo Vallet and sweet PX sherry.“
“Our food menu isn’t elevated bar food, it’s just really great food,” Pease says. Refined yet accessible, and most importantly, easy to share, the focus is on local ingredients and fresh seafood sourced daily from the Greenpoint Fish market. From snacks like smoked popcorn and croquettes to small plates like fluke ceviche flanked with avocado, green olives and pickled chilies, and mushroom toast on sourdough, the flavors are as bright and singular as the cocktails they are meant to pair with. Larger plates are also available and a sandwich featuring a brined chicken thigh sits proudly next to the more sophisticated grilled octopus and big flavors of steamed mussels in white wine, apricot and chorizo. Brunch has been a big draw on weekends and in addition to favorites like crispy fish tacos and Duke’s Burger, you’ll find more unique dishes like the fried oyster benedict and grilled halloumi cheese with fried green tomatoes and a poached egg.
Feel like rolling in early? Happy hour has become a neighborhood draw. And though there are no specials on cocktails, each drink is served with an 8 ounce can of Budweiser—creating a high brow/low brow atmosphere. “If you come in at happy hour, you’ll see everyone drinking a little can of beer with their Negroni or whatnot. No matter who they are or what age group,” Pease says. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
A defining feature of the space is the mezzanine, which can be rented out for private events and even tasting meals but is mostly open to customers. The 25-foot ceilings and skylight elevate this relaxed setting, and during the day it’s bathed in light.
The changing neighborhood of Kip’s Bay brings together a diverse community, which Pease believes is ready for something higher end. “But ultimately, this is about putting up a great product with a wonderful staff that the people will respond to,” he says. And that’s exactly what he’s doing.
My Friend Duke, located at 383 3rd Ave is open from noon until 4am Monday through Friday, and 11am until 4am on Saturday and Sunday. For more information please visit www.myfriendduke.com