Would you like a bouillon cube with that beer?
These New York City watering holes have been getting creative with their meal offerings to obey Governor Cuomo’s statewide mandate that bars must accompany alcohol purchases with substantive food — and not just chips.
In a scramble to comply, some pubs have seriously elevated the stakes for bar food while others are currently offering various modern-day equivalents to the legendary “Raines” onion sandwich, a comically unappealing response to the booze-restricting New York State liquor tax law of 1896, also known as the Raines Law.
Thirsty patrons in the East Village may find their drink order accompanied by Lunchables, a single sliver of cheese quesadilla or H Mart dumplings cooked in a hot dog steamer, bar staff and customers told The Post.
Patrons of a Ridgewood joint said one spot is offering “soup” consisting of hot water and a bouillon cube. A nearby bar is also serving — despite its full menu — a $1 gluten-free vegan taco consisting of a single corn tortilla, bar-goers said.
In Bushwick, patrons can get gazpacho or a dry cup of ramen at certain locales, tipsters said. Farrell’s Bar & Grill in Windsor Terrace has a whole new menu consisting of hot dogs, chips and salsa — and even a “combo meal” with a hot dog, chips and salsa. One Williamsburg pop-up has pizza rolls.
Multiple venues that shared their food offerings with The Post requested anonymity despite having already passed recent New York State Liquor Authority inspection, citing a fear of provoking Cuomo or suddenly finding themselves not in compliance with constantly changing guidelines.
And since the Gov scrapped chips as a menu item, establishments have figured out other cost-effective alternatives.
“There’s a reason why they give you a cheese sandwich in Central Booking — it’s cheap,” said William Eidenback, the manager of Do or Dive. At the Bed-Stuy bar, the first sammie is free for customers, after which they cost $1 each. Those who want their drink but not their legally required sandwich are encouraged to leave it at the community fridge around the corner, “so we’re not just wasting food for the sake of an executive order,” Eidenback told The Post. Hot dogs and chips are also available.
“That we’re a bar with free popcorn has been our calling card in past years, but obviously that’s not enough now, so we came up with something easy to make and shelf-stable,” Kirk Struble, owner of Park Slope’s 14-year-old watering hole Fourth Avenue Pub, told The Post about its new peanut-butter sandwich offering. “People treat it like a joke, but then they come back for more.”
A jelly-only alternative is available only for those allergic to peanuts. While the sandwich isn’t a traditional meal match for any of the pub’s 27 draft lines, Struble said it pairs quite well with their Wölffer Estate Dry Rosé Cider.
At beloved 52-year-old Lower East Side staple International Bar, owner Molly Fitch has offered $20 military field rations long before COVID-19.
“We have always sold MREs. People just don’t order ’em. They can, but they don’t,” she told The Post. “But [the new law] is mandating they have to order something.” Now, she’s also serving $3 sandwiches featuring house-cured ham from the East Village Meat Market and has shrimp Cup-A-Soups and single-serve oatmeal on the way. “The sandwiches are really good, I think we’ll probably keep ’em after this is all over,” she said.
While Cuomo has specifically given his blessing to soups and sandwiches despite revoking potato chips, what else is considered “substantive” food in his eyes is increasingly confusing, bar owners said.
“Every authority I’ve spoken to is unclear as to what constitutes a meal,” said Abby Ehmann, the owner of Alphabet City bar Lucky. “It’s upsetting to me that instead of helping us they’re actively working against us.”
A week after Ehmann launched a “Seating Not Eating” petition demanding Cuomo roll back his mandate, the State Liquor Authority suspended Lucky’s liquor license following a single warning for not serving food — despite Cuomo promising bars could have multiple opportunities to adjust to the new rules.
The communication failure has left the already-devastated service industry further in shambles.
“Everyone’s so afraid,” she told The Post.
Before her license was revoked, Ehmann had a clever plan for a new meal offering — baloney on bread. But she’d call it a Raines Law sandwich.