In a city that prides itself on ever-changing style, evolution and re-invention are commonplace things. Don’t like your hair? Chop it off. Over your closet? Shopping sprees are an easy solution given the proper credit limit. For bars and restaurants, total makeovers are much more difficult to come by.
The establishment formerly known as The Pizza Pub boasted a great reputation among neighborhood regulars and tourists alike. Located on the prime real estate corner of 3rd Avenue and 23rd Street, Pizza Pub advertised a spectacular deal of $5 for a house beer and a slice of cheese pizza, making it an immensely desirable location for people who like joy at an affordable rate. Pizza Pub had a hugely successful run as a great neighborhood spot where you could grab a great pre or post going-out drink or bite to eat.
After years of this business model, owner Yam Saban decided to renovate and rebrand this Gramercy pizza joint into a premiere cocktail destination with a re-imagined menu, an uber-cool fresh vibe, and a brand new name. Pizza Pub shuttered its doors in early May and re-opened in early July to a radically different aesthetic.
Having the creative freedom to innovate a pizza-less menu as well as complex, delicious new cocktails was definitely the primary goal of the bar’s renaissance, but not as much as making this bar the main destination rather than the “before” or “after” spot.
When asked what the new name would be, co-owners Brandon Mortenson and Yam Saban joked about following the late trend of including “and” in the name, following the vain of cocktail bars serving a limited food menu like Death & Co, Pearl & Ash, Booker & Dax, etc. They decided on eliminating the bookends and just calling it the name of the ‘and’ sign – Ampersand – & it stuck.
The refurbished wood, beautiful silver accents and funky playlists remind you that even though this scrappy bar may have gotten a facelift, it’s still the same beloved watering hole for dozens of locals who love the relaxed atmosphere, warm service, and laid back vibes. Replacing the pizza is a sprawling, phenomenal menu that I have been lucky enough to sample. Highlights include fish tacos with spicy aioli, white bean puree crowned with a hot pepper relish, lamb meatballs, and one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time. With two insanely creative and talented people at the helm, Ampersand’s menu looks to continue to evolve, placing emphasis on seasonality and crowd pleasing favorites alike.
Be sure to add to this to your must-see (and eat and drink!) list for Fall.
Twisted Talk: Did you used to frequent Pizza Pub? How do you feel about their reinvention? Discuss below!