The last time I went to NYC, I passed through Times Square and B.B. King's blues club and restaurant caught my eye. I looked it up on the net for my next visit and it was dubbed Time Out New York's Critic's pick for the city's best restaurant for their 2000 guide. Reuters wrote of it that they will recommend Times Square to anyone since B.B. King's opened there.
I perused the menu and looked at photos and decided that I had to go during my next visit. Well, yesterday was my next visit.
For no good reason, I was expecting more of a Hard Rock Cafe type tribute to King. I don't know if the photos were misleading somehow, or if it was just some silly notion I had in my head. Instead of endless clusters of memorabilia, there were barren mahogany walls with an occasional black and white photo. Initially it felt more like I was in a library. The booths have alternating black and white cushions, reminiscent of a piano's keyboard. The mahogany gave the atmosphere a dim feel, and this was amplified when one of the waitresses dimmed the lights.
It took us a long time to be seated. The staff would whip past us, avoiding eye contact, and forfeiting any acknowledgment. We were ready to leave when a bubbly guy charged over to us and smiled. He apologized for keeping us waiting, and chuckled about how we were "dissed" or something. He was funny.
So then we get our menus. Our waitress filled our water glasses promptly, informed us that the soup of the day is New England Clam Chowder and told us she'd be right back. We looked at the menu, discussed what we'll have, and waited. And waited. And....WAITED!
Again, we were getting ready to cross the street for some bloated Applebee's prices when she returned. She returned when our water glasses were empty except for trace particles of melted ice cubes.
Meg ordered the Barbecued Baby Back Ribs (with tempura onion rings) for $21.50 and a Kahlua Sombrero. I chose the Baked Penne (with sausage, ricotta, parmesan, and charred tomato sauce) for $15.50 and a bottle of Coor's Light (It was a toss up between that or Dom Perignon; Coor's won). We both added a diet soda each.
She came back with our diet sodas and a basket of dinner rolls (tasty, but horribly chewy; I might take one with me on my next flight to keep my ears from clogging up during take-off), and some dark brown bread chunks with raisins. THESE were insanely good, and should I ever be convicted of all of those crime sprees and given that death sentence... I mean... If I could choose my last meal, certainly this bread would be included. It's pleasantly sweet, and tastes strongly of molasses.
She returned with our alcoholic beverages, placed them down quickly and disappeared before I realized she gave me my beer without a glass. I drank it any way because I actually don't care, but my friend was horrified. She's Ms. Etiquette herself.
After maybe ten minutes our dinners arrived. It was super quick. Meg's ribs were nothing short of expansive on the plate, with a total of three onion rings. I snickered and told her I was going to ask her for one, but I'd better not now. As I've mentioned, Meg is Ms. Etiquette, and she ate her ribs with a fork and knife. The bones were cleaned as if she'd gnawed them and sucked them, so I suppose that should be a testament to their succulence. She said they were very good. She said the onion rings were onion rings. Nothing more and nothing less.
My pasta was nothing to write home about. I noticed no ricotta (possibly mixed in the sauce?). I detected no "charred" flavor in the "charred tomato sauce." The sauce had a strange, sticky quality, but wasn't bad. It just wasn't what I expected. The sausage was sickeningly sweet and would have been better suited to accompany my pancakes with maple syrup. The penne was al dente the way I love it. The parmesan was freshly grated and rather abundant, so that was good. If I could have paid what it was worth to me, I would have shelled out $7.35.
The waitress improved. She asked if our meals were okay after an appropriate amount of time.
A bus boy came and cleared our dirty dishes. He smiled a lot and was courteous and friendly without being intrusive.
At the next booth there were two young guys--maybe twenty?--and they had sandwiches, which I was curious about. One had a cheeseburger and steak fries (for $16.50...on the menu it is called the "Grilled Black Angus Burger"), and the other had the Pulled Pork with cole slaw and fries (on the menu for $12.50). Neither looked extravagant, and were served on regular old sesame seed buns. More evidence that we consumers pay for someone else's name without much substance to back it up.
We were given dessert menus, but we were pretty full. It looked really good, though. For $7 you can have either Tiramisu, Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream, Key Lime Pie, Mississippi Mud Pie (sounded EVIL and scrumptous!), or a few other things. We declined.
We waited for another agonizing eternity until she finally produced the bill. $70 and change. "Whaaaaat?" I asked, ripping the bill out of Meg's hand. There it was. Right between the food portion and the beverage portion of the bill. 15% gratuity. $8.55. Can you IMAGINE!? I know this is a common practice for parties of six or more, but even then they print it on the menu. The guys at the next table (who had the expensive sandwiches) asked us if they added the tip to ours, too. They shook their heads and grumbled amongst themselves after we told them yes.
When I got my credit card slip back it looked like a standard slip with the allotted space for the tip. I angrily scrawled "added prior without my consent" and wrote down the original total. That waitress cheated herself. Even after all the waiting and inattentiveness I was still going to give her 20% for being polite and for smiling.
I can't help but wonder how many times they are tipped twice by people who don't notice. If we ordered, say, another round of drinks and some appetizers, it may have gotten past me because the bill would have been so much larger and it may have drawn less attention to itself. This practice is not printed on the menu. It also certainly explained the blase attitude toward good service.
The other items on the menu include:
House Salad (mesculin): $ 8.50
Chef Salad (don't know
what it includes): $12.50
With Grilled Chicken: $14.25
With Shrimp : $15.25
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail: $12.50
Cajun Rock Shrimp Popcorn
With Sherry Remoulade: $11.50
Lobster Spring Rolls
(sweet & spicy chilli sauce,
wasabi & saki mustard): $12.00
Soup of the day: $ 7.50
Lobster Bisque: $10.50
Ham & Turkey! For ONLY: $11.50!
I told you about the other ones that my booth neighbors ate.
Aged Cheddar Baked
Macaroni & Cheese: $14.50
Grilled NY Sirloin
(w/ garlic cream yukon
gold hash brown potatoes)$28.00
Braised Beef Short Ribs
(w/ horseradish mashed
Chicken & Andouille Gumbo
(served with rice): $16.50
Roasted 1/2 chicken
(with mashed & gravy): $18.50
Crispy Skin Red Snapper
(w/ lobster sauce and
mashed potatoes): $19.50
Blackened Cat Fish
(with tartar sauce
and mashed potatoes): $17.50
I already touched on the dessert menu. You can also get an after dinner cordial for $9.
The sense I got from Lucille's Grille is that they are trying to be more like fine dining and falling short. If they want to "fall a little closer," then they may want to improve the ambience by removing the floor to ceiling projection TV that was playing a football game. Also, the music was so "subdued" that I couldn't tell you what was on; I could only tell that it was (even when I wasn't talking I couldn't hear it very well). I should think that a blues themed restaurant would promote the blues element a little more. I think they would have been wise to put more B.B. King artifacts around and either reduce the prices or improve the portions. Jeez, Tavern on the Green had a special a few weekends ago: any lunch $20, and any dinner $30. It would have been equal in monetary value, but it would have been more than worth it.
If I do ever go back, it would only be to go to their weekly Gospel Brunch. It's every Sunday at 1 PM. It's an all you can eat "soul food" and "southern" buffet featuring live gospel music. I have no idea what the cost is or what they serve precisely, but I don't doubt I would enjoy it.
In Lucille's Grille they feature live music from time to time. As it's smaller than the adjoining night club, I assume it's lesser known acts. In the night club they have coming up: Ike Turner, Bo Diddly, two different Beatles Tribute Bands, Roberta Flack, Vanilla Fudge, Blue Oyster Cult (one night, two shows...), Bruce Willis and the Accelerators featuring Ivan Neville (Snicker! I'm a Die Hard Fan, snort-snicker! Get it? Never mind...). Yes, B.B. has played there but he's not booked there any time soon that I could see. The current schedule kind of looks like a bunch of has-beens and wash ups. I'll bet the lesser known acts and the local blues bands are great, though.
The club is pretty big with lots of horse-shoe booths. In terms of atmosphere (from my quick glance) it seemed to have the same sterile, dim, dark, mahogany feeling as the restaurant next door. There is a huge bar there, and a large dance floor. Wall flowers and exhibitionists alike would fare well in there.
It's located at 237 West 42 Street. (212) 997-4144.
It's almost across from Madame Toussade's wax museum.
My new trend is to dedicate my reviews to epinions friends. This one is lovingly dedicated to Glomarrone!
Read all 85 Reviews
Write a Review
Best Suited For: Couples