Pete Davidson and other celebrities invested in Pebble Bar at Rockefeller Center.
It's inside a four-story converted townhouse next to the NBC studios home to "Saturday Night Live."
While I thought the food was lacking, the cocktails and exclusive atmosphere are worth the splurge.
Pebble Bar is a celebrity-backed, swanky new bar in a four-story Rockefeller Center townhouse that promises both luxury and good vibes.
Before it became Pebble Bar, the building was home to Hurley's from 1892 to 2000. According to a press release, Hurley's had its own crowd of regulars including TV hosts Johnny Carson (who had a personal back entrance, which is still intact today for only those in the know, according to the New York Post) and David Letterman, novelist Jack Kerouac, and decades of "Saturday Night Live" technicians.
As of February 28, the space reopened under new restaurateurs and a new name, with the help of celebrity investors including former "SNL" cast member Pete Davidson, "Succession" star Nicholas Braun, actor Justin Theroux, and music producer Mark Ronson.
I wanted to see for myself what the hype was about, so I was determined to get a reservation.
With names like Davidson and Braun in the mix, I noticed early on that the desire to visit among social media users was intense. And from the first day it opened, Pebble Bar was a difficult reservation to secure.
I had to book around a month in advance to land my 5 p.m., third-floor reservation in late May.
The space has three entertaining levels (each with its own caveat), and only two of them are bookable on Resy's online reservation service.
The exclusive vibes first hit me before I even entered the space.
At 4:45 p.m., there were gold stanchions with red velvet ropes lined up along the side of the building next to the door. Even though no one was lined up yet, they were ready for whatever the Wednesday night was about to throw at them.
There was also a doorman stationed at his post, checking guests' reservations and radioing up to the hostess to let her know exactly who was on their way upstairs.
The entryway is dark and has a luxurious feel, which continued as I walked up the navy and brown staircase.
When I first walked in, I was immediately wrapped in the dark wood and jewel-toned accents of the small lobby area.
The elevator door was emerald green with gold accents, and it had a small circular window reminiscent of attendant-operated elevators in old movies and TV shows.
I climbed the floor-lit stairs one flight to the second floor.
First, I saw the second-floor bar, which is for drinks only.
While I waited for my reserved table to be ready for me upstairs, I spent a few minutes taking in the second-floor bar area.
The atmosphere was lighter and more casual, while still feeling upscale and elite. There are high-top tables with stools as well as stool seating at the bar itself.
Online, the hours listed say Pebble Bar opens at 5 p.m., but I got there at 5 and there were already people drinking on floor two.
Guests can reserve a table on the second floor, but if you want to eat, you'll have to secure a third-floor reservation.
Finally, my table was ready and I headed upstairs to the even more exclusive third-floor lounge.
From my experience trying to get a reservation here, the third-floor spots go more quickly than the second floor, so it's harder to land a table.
This space seems a bit smaller than the second floor, though that's likely due to the more open floor plan of the level below.
On the third floor, the bar is walled off from the dining room space, which seats 35 and is decorated with brass table lamps, low seating, and a wraparound leather banquette. It was noticeably darker and moodier in tone than the second floor, which felt brighter.
The walls are decorated with mirrored panels and black-and-white photographs that channel "old New York."
Sitting there on the bench, I felt like this would be a wonderful date spot.
There's a fourth floor used for VIPs and private events that's only accessible by elevator. I wasn't allowed up during my visit.
The team mentioned that there was a private event going on while I was there and that was why I was denied entry.
It reminded me of a Pete Wells quote from his piece on Eleven Madison Park, an expensive restaurant that recently went plant-based with the exception of a private room where beef is on the menu. When talking about the elusive animal protein he called the situation a "metaphor for Manhattan, where there's always a higher level of luxury."
Even if you can get a Pebble Bar reservation at all, there's the question of what floor you get to experience. If you can book the third, you'll know that there's this secret place one floor up that's so close yet still out of reach.
On the third floor, even just 10 minutes after 5 p.m., the room started to fill up with other diners clad in chic business and dinner-wear.
I'm not used to seeing a bar or restaurant fill up at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday, but it seemed like everyone showed up for their Pebble Bar reservations.
The crowd seemed like a mix of friends and coworkers meeting up for drinks and a few small bites after work.
The menu features intricate, thought-out drinks, a selection of wine and beer, and limited snacks.
Featured cocktails range from $20 to $24, and the bar is also willing to make any off-menu classic you have a craving for (though those prices will vary depending on the drink).
The cheapest wine-by-the-glass is an orange Sauvignon blanc for $17, and beers cost between $10 and $13 for a glass.
If you're hungry, the least expensive thing you could order would be a single oyster or deviled egg for $4. There are a variety of eats on the menu, including a $135 seafood tower dubbed "The Rock."
A server mentioned that the 500 Miles High and the Rawhide Margarita were the most popular and debatably the best drinks on the menu — of course I took her suggestion.
The first drink our server mentioned was the 500 Miles High, which costs $20 and is made using yuzu shu, lychee, St. George pear brandy, and lemon and shiso leaf.
She was right — it was great. I didn't really taste the lychee in particular. I felt like it was more prominent in the color of the drink. My palate was able to pick up notes of pear and yuzu, but I think that overall, there wasn't one ingredient that overpowered the others. It tasted like they all worked together to offer a unique flavor that was much appreciated. It also wasn't overly sweet despite having brandy in it, which I loved. I am not a fan of sweet drinks.
The margarita was also mentioned as a high point on the cocktail menu, and after trying it I would agree.
This classic costs $21 and is made with lime, agave, and your choice of either Herradura Ultra Añejo tequila or Dos Hombres Mezcal.
When I tasted the margarita, which we ordered with tequila, I was immediately refreshed. It tasted pure and simple, and the sweetness was agave-forward rather than sugary.
Both drinks were delicious and, honestly, I wouldn't mind spending $20+ on them again or even risking $20+ to try a different cocktail on the menu.
When it comes to food, I was told that the chips with dip and the deviled eggs are two of the most popular small bites.
I'm not usually someone who orders deviled eggs, but when I heard it was one of the most popular items on the menu, I had to try it.
The yolks were puréed perfectly to a mousse-like texture, and the cayenne added a welcome flavor boost. I thought that the drizzle of finishing oil on top was nice since its fragrance also aided in flavor here, but the black truffle hiding inside was barely noticeable. I think it's a nice treat if you're just drinking and want a, very literal, small bite of food. (These come in servings of 1/2 an egg for $4 each.)
I also ordered the popular chips and french onion dip for $12. The chips to dip ratio was off — there wasn't enough dip for the portion of chips given — but everything tasted good. The dip felt like it had a thick sour cream base and I kept biting into pieces of onion and slivers of garlic as I scooped it into my mouth with a Cape Cod chip. It was topped off with a layer of chives, which added a nice texture.
After tasting these small bites, I think I might order them again next time instead of the heartier-sounding options.
For the slightly more substantial eats, she said the crab cake is a top choice for diners.
I was impressed by how little filling there was in this crab cake and how the actual shellfish flavor was present but not overpowering. There was a crumb on top that seemed to be made of either panko or crushed potato chips.
While the actual crab cake had flavor, the sauce it came with did not. There was a pink piquillo mayonnaise on the plate but, in my opinion, it added nothing here.
I did appreciate the well-dressed, bitter frisée that came on the side — it brought a brightness with a lemony, vinegar taste.
While I enjoyed the crab cake, I wouldn't spend another $28 on it.
Our server also said the lobster roll was popular, but I was more into the crab and a ceviche option.
I was intrigued by the fact that there was ceviche on the menu, so I wanted to give that a try, too.
This dish was called kampachi ceviche and came with cucumbers, watermelon radish, and leche de tigre.
My biggest hangup about it though was that it wasn't actually ceviche. While the kampachi was fresh and presented beautifully, it seemed to be raw rather than cured in the citrus juice — the curing process is the cornerstone of ceviche. It reminded me more of a crudo or even a take on carpaccio with the four thin slices of fish.
Ultimately, nothing on this $26 plate really had a flavor at all, which was disappointing. Even the leche de tigre tasted tart but flavorless.
Even though the prices are far higher than I would care to spend, there was something about being inside this small, intimate spot that makes me want to go back again.
I wouldn't spend so much on food next time, but I think the drinks and some of the small bites are worth the splurge for a special occasion or just a night when you want to get dressed up and feel luxurious.
Pebble Bar's atmosphere is hotel lobby bar meets chic SoHo cocktail lounge meets SoHo House. It's the cool factor of some popular downtown bars, but in Midtown, which the team behind it said in the press release has been missing from the neighborhood.
It's not a typical place I'd see myself hanging out at, and between the high prices and the just-OK food, I can't quite put my finger on what's drawing me to wanting to return. Perhaps it's the fact that it felt luxe and kind of old-world adjacent. Or maybe, it's the lingering hope that next time I'll get to see who's on the fourth floor.
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