We visited Employees Only last week as a backup, after our original choice cancelled service due to a busted water pipe. I’d never been, but it had always struck me as a dependable fallback when one has no other plans.
It strikes me that way still.
The name strikes an aura of faux exclusivity: you don’t need to be any kind of employee to get in, though you may find chefs and waiters there late, as the kitchen stays open until 3:30 a.m.
At the more civilized hour that we visited (7:00 p.m. on Friday evening), the bar was full, but the tables, of which there are fewer than a dozen, were empty. Bartenders, or perhaps I should say bar chefs, wore crisp white toques.
Employees Only was a speakeasy before everyone started doing it. You’d better memorize the address, because the name isn’t posted outside. There’s a tiny E.O. logo, which you could easily miss. A seemingly bored doorman stands guard, but he ignores you. A lady dressed as a psychic sits at a table just beyond the door. Once you’re fully inside, the the schtick is over, and the place functions as a normal restaurant.
The menu offers straightforward renditions of continental comfort food classics, all solidly done, if not especially imaginative. Salads are $7–12, appetizers $11–23, entrées $19–27, side dishes $7. Cocktails are on the expensive side, mostly $14–15, though you ought to try one.
The Serbian Charcuterie Plate ($21; above) was ample for two to share. It eludes me how Serbian charcuterie is distinguished from other kinds, but it was a fine selection.
I had to try the Elk Loin ($32; above right), if only because there’s nowhere else to get it. Elk is lean and not gamey, which means it doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own. It was fun to have once, but I wouldn’t order it again. Orecchiette ($19; above left) was a competent preparation, with house-made Italian sausage, arugula, and parmesan.
Service was friendly and attentive.
Employees Only isn’t quite convenient enough for me to drop in regularly, nor important enough to be a destination, but if you’re hungry and don’t have other plans, it’s nice to know it’s there.
Employees Only (510 Hudson Street between Christopher & W. 10th St., West Village)