When Magnum Lounge closed in October 2015, the Upper Eastside neighborhood mourned its loss. Magnum was more than a bar. For years, it was a place of all-inclusive community: Gay, straight, young, and old were welcome. As long as you liked your cocktails with a side of music, you were part of the family.
Now, the Anderson has opened in its place. The bar and restaurant, a partnership between Broken Shaker/Bar Lab's Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi and the Workshop's Jourdan Binder, has enlisted Vagabond chef Alex Chang to create the food menu.
What results is a harmonious blend of nostalgia and newness. Instead of razing Magnum, the team has embraced the kitschy club, keeping its red naugahyde booths and the piano.
The changes made are welcome — new flooring and wallpaper, a workable layout that opens up the main room, and nods to the 1980s such as a plasma globe and a mini Pac-Man game.
Music is still very much a part of the Anderson. A vintage jukebox is filled with '80s classics by everyone from Michael Jackson to Billy Joel (in the '80s, both men shared equal time on the pop charts). The piano has been moved to a place of honor on a stage. Of course, this is still 2016, so the piano area doubles as the DJ booth.
The Anderson's cocktail menu is divided into two categories — "New Wave" and "Originals." New Wave drinks are takes on classic libations of the '80s and '90s. The Let's Dance ($14) is a twist on a dirty martini, made with Elyx vodka, caper berries, filthy olive brine, and truffle spray. The Like a Virgin ($11) is a take on the cosmopolitan, the drink made famous in the '90s by the characters of Sex and the City, who slurped the pink beverage all over Manhattan in the HBO runaway hit series that defined dating long before Girls.
Other New Wave offerings include Sex on the Bus ($11), a modern-day Sex on the Beach, with Absolut vodka, Aperol, and peach/cranberry "goo;" and the Under Pressure ($12). This tribute to both Bowie and apple martinis is made with green-apple-infused vodka and Dolin Blanc vermouth and a cold-pressed sorrel tincture.
Originals include the Mr. Anderson ($12), featuring Wild Turkey, mezcal, Cynar bitters, and cardamom-infused vermouth; and the I'm Too Old for This $h!T($11), made with Beefeater gin, Cocchi Americano rosé, cloves, and allspice home oil and finished with grapefruit Perrier.
The Anderson also offers a "beer and a shot" menu ($10 each). Try the Handjob — a vodka and strawberry Aperol shot accompanied by a bottle of Peroni.
The munchies menu, created by Chef Chang, riffs on classic bar fare such as coconut shrimp ($13), burritos ($9), and Tex-Mex queso ($9) with fresh avocado and chile morita. A Japanese hot dog is topped with seaweed flakes for crunch ($11). The frank is served with fries and a side of piquant, creamy samurai sauce for dipping.
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More adventurous options include a Korean vegetable pancake with kale and kimchee ($10), French escargots with garlic butter and a warm baguette ($15), and crispy rice with uni and key lime kosho (market price).
Outside, the scene changes into a tribute to Caribbean bars. The theming still fits with the '80s vibe — during that decade, reggae burst into the mainstream following Bob Marley's untimely death. The '80s also saw a young Tom Cruise star in Cocktail, a movie about a New York bartender who travels to Jamaica for fame and fortune. The Anderson's outside bar serves rum-forward cocktails and features a rotating frozen libation.
What's most attractive about the Anderson is the mix of patrons. On a recent evening, the bar was filled with Broken Shaker fans, professionals from the restaurant and bar industries, and Magnum regulars checking out the place. All were welcome as long as they enjoyed a good cocktail with a side of music. Once again, 79th Street has a neighborhood bar with a sense of community. At the Anderson, everything old is new again.