Yes, Hill Country is a restaurant, but no hostess will seat you and no server will come by to take your order. Instead, arriving patrons are given a meal ticket, which they carry into a Texas-style market. At one counter, they order meats by weight, watching as pitmasters pull their selection from smoking pits fueled with Texas post oak and the menus of lesser barbecue restaurants. The menu includes the signature moist brisket—juicy, fatty morsels that New York Times’ reporter Pete Wells is said to order a pound of every time because it shows “Hill Country’s rotisserie barbecue pits at their finest.” Whatever meat guests choose, it’s carved onto sturdy sheets of butcher paper they carry with them as they stop at additional counters to collect sides and desserts.
Though all meat is served with white bread or crackers, a lineup of sides includes corn pudding, Longhorn cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese, and sweet potato bourbon mash. The dessert case displays temptations such as banana pudding, which Wells gushed is “built upon a custard so thick with eggs and cream it brings Paris to mind.” Guests can return to the counters as many times as they like; each item ordered is noted on their ticket, which they turn in to the cashier at the end of the meal. The menu has some devoted culinary fans—renowned food critic Frank Bruni named Hill Country one of his five favorite restaurants, for instance—but the eatery attracts a musically inclined audience as well. Downstairs in the Boot Bar, a state-of-the-art stage hosts nationally touring blues, alt-country, and honky-tonk acts that have included Dale Wilson and Roseanne Cash. The shows take place Tuesday–Saturday nights, and are often free of charge.
Black lights illuminate your opponent as electronic music pulses in the background. You raise your paddle, and swing. The Ping-Pong match begins. This unusual scene unfolds nearly every day and night at Spin New York, a self-described "Ping-Pong social club."
Lauded in a range of media, this now-international franchise was created with a firm vision in mind. In an interview on Anderson Live, co-owner and actress Susan Saradon explains her love of Ping-Pong: "it cuts across age, body type, gender ? little girls can beat their fathers." In an NBC News segment, co-owner Jonathan Brickland adds that their mission was to marry the social nature of the sport with the atmosphere of a country club, except "more inclusive ... silly, and frivolous," and ideally with fewer golf-cart crashes.
Spin New York certainly takes this fun-focused mission seriously. The sprawling hall houses 17 Ping-Pong courts, including a central court where professional players compete in regular tournaments. These same professionals are on-hand for private instruction, though players are more than welcome to keep things casual. Meanwhile, an on-site restaurant and bar serves seasonally changing plates alongside cocktails made from fruit purees and blended Teaologie teas. From the seats or the courts, visitors may see one of the old building's original features: a giant window that looks out onto the passing subway train.
On most nights, a DJ provides a soundtrack to dining and play, although live bands are often a weekend fixture. Adding to its socially-focused mission, Spin also gathers people to support charitable causes; recently, Ms. Sarandon used her club to host a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
When The Hill first opened, people speculated that Heidi and Spencer Pratt of The Hills were behind the venture. That was just a rumor. The spot actually takes its name from its neighborhood, not the Los Angeles reality show. Now that the initial mystery surrounding The Hill has lifted, the pub has become a neighborhood go-to for catching the game while sipping drinks and devouring philly sliders, baskets of crispy tater tots, and pots of fondue.
A Reflection of Murray Hill
As New York Times reporter Jeff Vandam explains, Murray Hill is a hard neighborhood to pin down. Quiet rows of brownstones and apartment buildings contrast with a lively pub scene geared toward the 20-somethings who have recently become more of a fixture in recent years. Like the neighborhood it calls home, The Hill has somewhat of a split personality. From afternoon to early evening, it is predominantly a sports bar, with more than 25 high-definition televisions broadcasting live games in the bar and upstairs lounge. As soon as the action wraps up, though, things start to get interesting. Candlelight replaces the flickering glow of television screens, and the bar transforms into a stylish lounge for Murray Hill?s sophisticated set.
An Upscale Pub Setting
The Hill welcomes postcollegiate fans to cheer on their alma maters in a setting that's far more refined than that of a typical sports bar. Chandeliers glimmer overhead, and leather cushions line long booths. Polychromatic planks of wood line the walls on both floors, giving guests something interesting to admire when the bartenders take a break from stirring lemon-drop martinis or pouring glasses of watermelon sangria.
It starts with a buzz. When patrons approach Raines Law Room, they’re not met by a surly doorman, just a silver doorbell. After gaining entry, guests might feel as though they’ve entered another era. In true speakeasy fashion, the windowless space is filled with plush Chesterfield sofas, the only light coming from the candles and wood-burning fireplace reflecting off the tin ceiling. In the lounge, tufted sofas and chairs recall an upscale living room. In the parlor, privacy curtains shroud four seating areas equipped with wall buzzers that can summon a server. The no-standing-around policy means parties must check in for a seat; if there aren’t any available, guests can leave their cell number and come back when they receive a call that a table is ready or a new brood of chairs finally hatched. Once seated, guests rifle through the drink list, which is divided into categories such as Bright & Crisp and With a Bitter Edge. Meaghan Dorman and her team of expert mixologists carefully blend drinks such as the South Side Rickey, a concoction of gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and club soda infused with mint plucked from the onsite garden. Raines ranked as a top 10 finalist for World’s Best Cocktail Menu at the 2012 Spirited Awards, so most patrons will probably be tempted to sample more than one spirit, meaning their visit will end as it began—with a buzz.
Hudson is in the heart of New York, walking distance from Time Warner Center and Columbus Circle. This 4-star hotel is close to Broadway and Times Square.
Make yourself at home in one of the 866 air-conditioned rooms featuring refrigerators and flat-screen televisions. Cable programming and iPod docking stations are provided for your entertainment, while complimentary wireless Internet access keeps you connected. Bathrooms have designer toiletries and hair dryers. Conveniences include safes and irons/ironing boards, as well as multi-line phones with voice mail.
Rec, Spa, Premium Amenities
Take advantage of recreation opportunities such as a fitness facility or take in the view from a rooftop terrace and a garden. Additional features include complimentary wireless Internet access, babysitting/childcare, and a pool table.
Take advantage of the hotel's room service (during limited hours). Relax with a refreshing drink at one of the 2 bars/lounges.
Business, Other Amenities
Featured amenities include a business center, audiovisual equipment, and currency exchange. Event facilities at this hotel consist of exhibit space and a meeting/conference room. Parking (subject to charges) is available onsite.
No one would argue that getting a drink at Milk & Honey is easy. It can be tricky to find your way inside the unmarked bar, and even then, you'll be stopped at the door without a reservation—that is, unless you're a member, or possibly an untamed hippo. (Interested parties who apply for membership and pay an annual fee gain access not only to Milk and Honey New York, but also to an award-winning family of clubs that extends to London and the French Alps.) Once admitted, visitors must follow house rules that encourage dignified behavior: conversational tones, responsibility for your guests, and a ban on men introducing themselves to women (but not the other way around). The cocktails are as serious as the decorum. Bartenders begin the day by squeezing fruit for fresh juice and hand-carving a twice-frozen mineral-water ice brick into jagged chunks that chill with minimal dilution. Come cocktail hour, they pluck glasses from a -40-degree freezer and fill them with artisanal drinks such as a Florodora with gin, lime, raspberries, ginger, and soda water. A grazing menu complements the drink selection with small plates of meatball sliders, scallops, and bruschetta with spiced eggplant.