MTK Chowder House (at American Trash) | 1471 1st Ave. (bet. 76th & 77th Sts.) | 212.988.7458 | | |

THERE IS A bar called American Trash up here in Yorkville that has genuinely fulfilled its "biker bar" affect for over twenty years. I used to go visit my friend, Dieter, there in the late 80s, and for almost twenty years spent far more time remembering walking in the place is I do walking out of it.

This was the place me and my friends would go to just get twisted wild and effed up, with bartender Paulie grabbing us by the collar and pouring shots of Cuervo, Southern Comfort, or (many times, and) Jack Daniels directly into our mouths straight from the bottle.

A more mature sensibility has kept me from that type of debauchery for a few years, consequentially keeping me out of the fun yet health-risking revelries of American Trash.

So when I started to most recently hear whispers from friends that Trash (as we call it) had installed not just a performance space, but a kitchen as well, I wasn't so much a skeptic as I was just confused.

The kitchen produces food under the name MTK Chowder House, and brief research on food websites found actual raves for their lobster rolls and for their Wednesday night lobster special, featuring a 1-1/4 pound lobster with corn and coleslaw for just 20 bucks.

My Facebook friends who barely remember their nights at Trash like I do responded skeptically as well as I updated my status with my intent to dine there, and was relieved to find the place looking as country lo-fi and "trashy" as ever, save the addition of dining tables and booths, and a kitchen where the dart board used to be.

I grabbed a seat at the still familiar bar and checked out the menu, boasting chowders, said lobster roll, an Ipswich fried full belly roll, hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, as well as entrées such as the fish and chips that my new friend and bar neighbor, Ray, ordered for himself.

Ray was already another fan of the new menu items, and told me I'd be happy with whatever I ordered. I felt I should order the lobster roll, at least to compare it to my present favorite served a little closer to me at Luke's Lobster Upper East Side location, but decided to save that for another occasion.

The clam roll was novel enough to win my favor, so I ordered it, and in minutes, the sexy blue-eyed bartender, Kira, presented the sandwich, large and overflowing with the clams as to require eating with a knife and fork.

The sandwich was more than good, it was great. The creamy, tender, slightly briny clams in crunchy breading were full of flavor and textures, and the bright but not overly tart tartar sauce served them well.

It wasn't until after I ordered the clam roll, however, that I was informed that the MTK burgers were made from Pat LaFrieda, the same meat purveyor who supplies the house blends for Shake Shack, 5 Napkins Burger, Minetta Tavern, and the new and excellent Mel's Burger Bar.

Having the possibility to have a Pat LaFrieda burger without having to wait a half hour for it, in a place where I can sit down, have a shot of Jack Daniels, and watch the Yankee game, well, it was one I couldn't pass up.

I ordered a cheeseburger, and Mark, owner of the bar and co-owner of the kitchen—who I've know since Trash first opened over twenty years ago—was doing the actual cooking, his knowledge, experience, and skills appropriated after years of working at places like La Grenouille, La Reserve, Sam's Cafe, Côte Basque, Montrachet, and for Thomas Keller.

He decided I could handle a double cheeseburger, with his special burger sauce, the only ingredient that he wold reveal being always excellent sriracha sauce.

Eff the Shack (and I don't mean Radio Shack)! This burger is a winner. (One of my most immediate reactions being grateful and excited that they deliver as well!) This is the beautiful kind of tender, juicy, flavorful burger that requires you to eat it over your plate as the burger's clear juices run over your fingers and down your chin. It will force me to reconfigure my top NYC burger list, but not while I was enjoying it. Even the bright but not too sweet or sour pickles were a pleasure.

The MTK in the name stands for Montauk, and the ideology of serving New England fare such as lobster and chowder in a down home, Southern bar serves to showcase the best of both worlds. And as I congratulated Mark on MTK Chowder House as he prepared some other dishes, I walked out, happy in the knowledge that, as opposed to my hazy visitations in the 80s and 90s, I will now remember walking out of American Trash a lot more often.

Bun Apple Tea!


MTK Chowder House (at American Trash) on Urbanspoon

MTK Chowder House (at American Trash) | 1471 1st Ave. (bet. 76th & 77th Sts.) | 212.988.7458 | | |