If there is one thing to be said about hidden gems is that you really hope no one discovers them and ruins your new secret hangout close to where you live. Being that this place is literally around the block from our apartment and down a side street along a spot on the Upper East Side/Yorkville part of NYC it seemed like a place that only a few locals would know about. It’s in a barren stretch of an area that really needs an influx of new specialty bars and eateries such as this, and is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Alas, now that we have been here a few times and are fast becoming regulars we see that everyone else around here has also found out about the Drunken Munkey. It’s now at that point where you need a reservation to get in! The crowds have slowly discovered this wonderful new Indian craft cocktail bar and restaurant, of which the adulation is much deserved!
The Drunken Munkey – I really do love the name of this place – is being billed as New York City’s first dedicated “craft cocktail” bar on the Upper East Side. They serve a selection of classic cocktails, wines, spirits and cordials along with offering comforting dishes of Indian style cooking. The decor reminds one of a throwback to the times of Colonial India with a generous touch of the legendary flavors and style of famous cafes and supper clubs you used to find in “Old Bombay”. It’s a cozy but whimsical spot with an affable owner, terrific staff, skilled mixologists, and downright delicious food. How can you go wrong with that? Well, you can’t and Drunken Munkey is helping to usher in a new generation of affordable upscale eateries and cocktail emporiums to this barren stretch of the UES. We need more “flavor” up here and it is a delight to see it has arrived.
When we dropped by the first time it was quite by accident. I had seen a review about this new hot spot somewhere and decided to walk over on the way home from work to see what all the hubub was about. I was taken aback that this wonderful looking spot was here and a block away from our place. I grabbed my gal and we tried to get a table for dinner but was told the first seating wasn’t available until 10pm. Dang – it was only 7:30 at that point so we decided to try for another night. So glad we came back as our experience hanging out with this Drunken Munkey was pure joy! Still, we could not score a table as I forgot to make reservations but happily scored two seats at the happening bar. So glad we did as our evening there went into the wee hours of the morning filled with Old Fashioneds, Singapore Slings, delicious dinner with dessert, and fun conversations with those around us all having a great time!
It’s the kind of spot that once you get there you settle in and never want to leave. Warm and inviting to help battle the cold of this long winter it fits like a comfortable set of gloves that you don’t want to take off. It’s a place that I can see as a date spot, or for friends and family to meet up at for a dinner over spirited conversation, or for those just looking to have a few cocktails and a bite at the bar in a lively environment. With such attention to the little things you will see monkey laden images and statues along the bar, mini bicycles along the wall shelves, grainy black and white photos of old Bombay, cricket ball bathroom door handles, and even the waitresses are dressed in churidar kurtas giving off such a cool ambiance to dine and enjoy. The one flat screen they have features Bollywood movies and Indian programming, while the music playing in the background features an eclectic mix of old jazz, to 70′ and 80’s hits, Indian tunes, to some rock. Somehow, it all works here. Can be a bit loud and boisterous at moments being that it is a small space but that just adds to the fun.
As for the food? Now that we have dined here a few times I can say it really is delicious and I think I might become an Indian food addict here. We started of with an appetizer of Paani Puri -crispy flour puffs, aloo & chick-pea chaat, with tamarind mint water. Something I never had but was oddly good and fun to eat. Okra was off the hook! Crispy okra, onions, tomato & chat masala. These are dangerous! I wanted to ask for a bucket of them to bring home and eat on the couch while watching tv. Mine! Mine! All mine! My precious!
The Butter Chicken Tikka Masala is a classic comfort dish and they do it right! Everything is served on one large plate which makes it all too easy – main course, raita & ghee rice, kachumber, and some perfectly fluffy naan. Mmmmm……I could eat this every day. That soft tasty chicken. That creamed tomato sauce. Oh my. No really, I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t judge me! If an Indian restaurant can’t do Tikka Masala right then I avoid it, but the Munkey has an experienced chef that is a master at what he does. I could not help but stare at what everyone around us was eating with a bit of drool coming out of my mouth. Guess we’ll need to keep coming back to try out the whole menu. Happily, I might add!
Oh, and libations here are nothing to sniff at as they list a classic offering of old school cocktails for $12. Served in ornate glassware the bartenders here are killer and mix a mean drink. Pimms Cup, Singapore Sling, East India Cocktail, Royal Enfield Sidecar, Old Fashioned, among others help quench your thirst with a generous pour and enrich your soul. Even if you don’t eat here it is a destination spot to drop in and have a drink to end your night or start it off. Cocktails, beer, and wine. I think the locals have all discovered that already!
Wait – don’t forget dessert! Gajar Halwa – carrot pudding, crushed nuts, cardamom coconut creme is something that doesn’t sound right but makes an amazing sweet concotion to top off a meal here. Just. So. Good. Listen to me and get it. You’re welcome.
I think I will become fast friends with this Drunken Munkey. He taunts me with awesome drinks and delectable food. He lives right around the block from me and might become a bad influence! You know how those monkeys are!
Drunken Munkey – https://www.facebook.com/drunkenmunkeynyc