The other day, I met up with KH for a drink and a bite at Nios, the new-ish restaurant/bar/lounge in the Muse hotel just outside of Times Square. Nios replaced another restaurant in the same location that never seemed to have anyone eating there (as good a reason as any to be replaced, eh?). And it turns out that Nios is a great place to gather for a low-key, relaxing rendez-vous if you find yourself in the wilds of Times Square.
Nios truly embraces a something-for-everyone mentality. The menu, while nominally "Shareable American comfort food," is all over the (literal) map. There's the obligatory cheeseburger for your American folk. Or take a trip to Peru with their ceviche. Or, for that matter, to Italy with some olives or pizza. Plantain chips? Si, Senor! And not only do they have Montreal's famous poutine, but they have TWO KINDS of poutine (there's "Carbonara Poutine," with pancetta and parmeasan, for all those who were considering ordering Poutine but felt it wasn't quite decadent enough). Phew. I'm exhausted just recounting that.
And if your companions are fickle on atmosphere as well, not to worry: Nios has got you covered. The soundtrack ranges from early 20th century big-band to techno, dance-hall, "da club" beats. Perhaps you feel that the lighting isn't quite right when you walk in-- never fear! The staff will adjust it several times throughout the night (swinging from movie-theater dark to dentist's-office bright).
But all that's to say that, for God's sake, there's SOMETHING here that will make you happy. Order a drink, of course; while there's a fairly creative cocktail list, there's also a decent wine list. Both KH and I went for glasses of red wine (I had a Malbec that was quite tasty). And just in case you were wondering, true to form, if you order more than one glass, your second wineglass will be of a different shape and style from your first. Which, of course is entirely different from the wineglasses on the adjacent table. Average it out over the night, and you're bound to have one style of glassware that suits your fancy (or, I guess, you could trade with your neighbor).
The eats deserve a nod as well. There are a few solid cheese selections; we chose a cheddar, a pecorino, and something soft and goaty, all of which were tasty. The accompaniments included stewed raisins, membrillo, and fig jam, as well as some standard water crackers and a basket of bread.
The surprise star of the evening turned out to be the plantain chips, which came precariously stuffed into an art-deco metal cone. Whoever attempts to extract the first chip will, inevitably, send three or four flying all over the table-- it really can't be avoided. But the chips themselves were pretty darn addictive: salty and slightly greasy with just the merest hint of sweetness underneath the crunch. Yum.
So that's that. While Nios doesn't exactly get flawless marks for a smooth-as-silk dining experience, if you go with a sense of fun, it's a pretty darn great place. And above all, it's one of the best places in the Times Square area to duck in out of the mayhem.
130 W. 46th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues