A Southern friend of mine was in town this week for a meeting, so I figured it was a perfect time to try Mason Jar. Armed with my 30% off code from Blackboard Eats, I made us reservations. For Monday. Monday night. As in Monday Night Football. No, I don’t watch professional football. I don’t care about NFL. I care about three other letters – SEC, as in Southeastern Conference (not Securities and Exchange Commission). If you are like me, MNF is not the right time to to to a restaurant like this, which is basically more of a sports bar.
They did have an excellent selection of Southern cocktails. There was their Arnold Palmer, which was sweet tea vodka, sour mix, and a splash of soda. There was the Mint Julep, made up of Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon, simple syrup, and mint leaves. I was also intrigued by the Mason Jar Manhattan, which was Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, raspberry liquor, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The specialty drinks were $10-$11. Their Mint Julep was good, but a tad on the watery side. I liked the crushed ice, but the mint was a tad to subtle for my liking. Hard to knock them though since they at least offer it at all – and in a mason jar to boot.
We started off with some appetizers. I’d been gazing longingly at the fried pickles, so those were a must have, as were the pulled pork egg rolls. They were the more unique offerings they had available. The fried pickles were my favorite. I’ve only ever seen them at Southern Comfort on the Upper East Side. Mason Jar’s version was very lightly breaded, cooked to a point where they were slightly crispy. They were also very thin and were of varying degrees of thickness – confirming what I suspected. Homemade. Served with Ranch dressing, how could they not be amazing? (Note: the menu noted horseradish mayo. Perhaps we lucked out, because we definitely weren’t served mayo). The pulled pork eggrolls were pulled pork in a homemade BBQ sauce with scallion & a hint of jalapeño. There were four pieces, just perfect for sharing. The pork was nicely seasoned and the BBQ sauce had a smoky flavor contrasted nicely to the jalapeño.
For our main dishes, we ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and the mac ‘n cheese. I’d read good things about the fried chicken, which was served with buttermilk gravy, mashed potatoes, and jalapeño cornbread. Sadly aside from the cornbread, I wasn’t impressed with any of it. The chicken had no flavor. Instead of being juicy, it was watery and plain runny. The breading had no flavor, which was the same for mashed potatoes. I prefer mine to be slightly less salty, but I question if their kitchen had salt. Not usually a fan of gravy, I was left questioning what the white drizzle was – because that wasn’t gravy. I understand it was made from buttermilk, but so is my mama’s… this version? No flavor. Just a mechanism to further water down the chicken. Very disappointing.
The mac ‘n cheese was made using elbow macaroni which was tossed in a beer cheese sauce, then baked with panko bread crumbs. The portion size was very generous and overall, I’d say the dish was very cheesy. As opposed to most of the versions I’ve had lately, the cheese was not light and milky. It was definitely of a thicker, heavier variey – something which I’ve yet to encounter. It was actually a nice change. it seemed a very appropriate choice for a bar twist on the standard. In some parts, the bread crumbs were downright burned, but for the most part, it was just light-to-medium browned, adding the perfect topping to the dish. I’d definitely say skip the chicken and go for the mac (or maybe something else on the menu?).
While I expected the restaurant to be more bar than high level restaurant, I was expecting a bit more from the menu. I’ve been very impressed with the level of food you can find in many bars in the city (kudos to the likes of the Redhead). By the end of the evening, I was disappointed by not only the food but the inability to conduct a conversation without yelling at my friend. I’d probably come back again to watch a football game as it’s relatively open and well set-up for that. I’d have some fried pickles (or another appetizer, since that’s where Mason Jar really excels) and find a seat at the bar. However, this might be my one and only dinner outing here.
Mason Jar – 43 East 30th St (b/w Park & Madison Aves) – 212.213.3587