BAR REVIEW: SOUTHERN-INSPIRED FARE AND MANHATTAN'S BEST RUM OLD-FASHIONED MAKE PORCHLIGHT A MUST-VISIT

Porchlight, which resides in West Chelsea - a stone’s throw away from the rapidly rising Hudson Yards - could be described as a southern watering hole that is neatly fitted within an industrial New York City venue. The concept was the brainchild of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) employee Mark Maynard-Parisi and is led by talented head bartender Nick Bennett (previously of the high tech cocktail bar, Booker and Dax). For those of you that may not know, USHG was founded by Danny Meyer, the established restauranteur who developed the concept famously known as Shake Shack.

Although it is off the beaten path, Porchlight consistently brings in a steady crowd of locals, bar industry folk, and business professionals which speaks to the quality of the food and drinks that they offer. Not only is the food and drink top-notch, the space is also ideal for every occasion with a private game room in the back of the bar which has been used for private events and large group gatherings, as well as a large southern-esque industrial bar space that is perfect for a casual meeting or date meet-up.

  Igee Okafor and myself enjoying a couple cocktails at Porchlight. (Photo: Erik Parapar)

Igee Okafor and myself enjoying a couple cocktails at Porchlight. (Photo: Erik Parapar)

So, what is this top-notch food and drink that I speak of? I will provide my unsolicited, fried chicken-loving advice and will tell you that if you go to any place that specializes in southern cuisine and offers fried chicken that you need to get it. Whether you’re there for brunch and order their Chicken and Waffles (so good), or are there for happy hour, or dinner, and order their Chicken Po’ Boy Spicy Fried, you will not be disappointed. I can count on one hand the amount of places that fried chicken has knocked my socks off, and this spot is absolutely one of them.

But, Porchlight is considered a bar with delicious bar bites, not a restaurant. So, let’s talk about some of their expertly crafted cocktails. Their drink menu is broken down into a few sections. Aside from beer and wine, their drink list includes their “Tried-and-True” cocktails (their mainstays), “Guzzlers,” and “Sippers.” The latter two are self-explanatory, and rotate semi-seasonally. While their menu currently features guzzlers like “Good Vibrations,” which is made with Plantation Pineapple Rum, Fernet-Branca, Coconut, Lime and Cane Syrup, and a riff on the southern favorite - the Sazerac, everything Porchlight has put on the menu has been outstanding - a credit to the incredible, Nick Bennett. The team also offers a bartender’s choice-type option called, “What’ll it be?” which is for the adventurous drinker who will most likely not be disappointed with what gets put in front of them.

  Porchlight’s classic Gibson

Porchlight’s classic Gibson

Although their menu often features complex cocktails that have been stripped down and made simple due to their exceptional methodology and creativity, they also offer some classics like the Rum Old-Fashioned (which is typically offered during happy hour). While I’ve had many Old-Fashioneds, you may not find a better one than this particular one in all of Manhattan. I say this because I’ve had at least fifteen of them and each has been just as memorable as the last. Their use of Bittermens Mole Bitters and Aromatic Bitters, along with the Luxardo Maraschino cherry, make this classic one to savor and sit with for as long as possible before ordering another.

Sitting at their bar, rain or shine, summer or winter, or alone or with a group, is always a pleasure. The hospitality, comforting music, delicious drinks, good people and good vibes will keep you going back. Even though it isn’t right off of a subway stop, the trip will always be worth it and you will always be welcomed warmly with a drink on the way. Put this one on your list, you won’t want to miss it.

Click here to get the recipe for their sherry cobbler riff, “No Vermouth in Duluth.”

Visit Porchlight - 271 11th Ave, New York, NY 10001.