The Malt House
9 Maiden Lane (between Broadway and Nassau)
New York City
The Malt House is tucked down a small side street caddy corner from Zuccotti Park - the site of the Occupy Wall Street protests - and is usually teeming with bespoke tailoring, high-priced haircuts, and a distinctive Bro vibe. Despite the obvious money-making arrogance in the ether, I always enjoy myself at The Malt House. Just steps from the New York Stock Exchange, the studded steel beams and dark wood décor is substantial, encouraging a fantasy that this Wall Street watering hole could survive even the most devastating disaster. I have been here with colleagues for many a happy hour, to take down numerous wire baskets of high-end pub grub. The group favorite is the Cheese Curds; chunks of panko-fried white cheddar, served with a chipotle aioli, simultaneously conjuring intense pleasure and a wee bit of remorse.
My favorite time to come to the Malt House is after 9:00, when the slick, virile brokers have worn themselves out with their insufferable boasting and zigzagged back uptown to their soulless high-rise studios. I have the bar mostly to myself, and I relax into the leather barstool softly, as if I am settling on top of a cloud. The usual affable bartender Labhaoise (pronounced Leesha) isn’t there tonight. Her replacement, a dark sturdy man who was more indifferent than genuinely welcoming, poured my wine and took my order; a glass of Pfalff Pepper Grüner Veltliner from Austria and the pan-roasted chicken. It might not sound noteworthy but it was blissful.
The generous pour was pale gold and I knew this wine was especially multifaceted and food-friendly. Well-balanced between peppery and fruity, this wine incarnated the Pfaffl family’s Viennese terroir and granted my taste buds a trip to Austria for $13 a glass.
The crispy, bone-in, half pasture-raised chicken was served upon an imperfectly round loop of mashed potatoes, stacked with sautéed kale, roasted mushrooms, and delicate au jus gravy that trickled off the potatoes like tiny umami creeks. As I cut into the chicken the skin crackled briefly before the knife continued into the juicy, warm-but-not-steaming meat. I gathered a bit of everything on my fork, and the grassy, garlicky kale stems snapped to attention. I could practically feel the vitamins coursing through my body, and self-consciously admired my virtuousness for enjoying kale at this level. I indulged in a bite of chicken that was mostly skin. It was impressively peppery and just the right amount of salty. The herbs from the crisp outer layer scratched the roof of my mouth and my tongue, giving the temporary sensation of burning taste buds. But my palate quickly recovered, prepared to absorb this simple and soothing combination of senses. Only slightly more dignified than licking the plate clean, I dragged the last bites of chicken through the traces of the potatoes and au jus. With each twirl I wished there was a little more of both to keep the perfect ratio of chicken to veggie to gravy intact.
The Malt House is a perfect spot to grab a post-work happy hour drink and gastrosnack. But if you really want to enjoy this oasis of true comfort food in the most rigid of neighborhoods, come late when the Wall Street Bros have all but disappeared.