If you've gone out drinking in the East Village at any point over the past five years, and particularly if you stop in at some of the neighborhood's more classic haunts, it's extremely possible that James Hurst did the pouring.
Hurst arrived here in 2017 from Los Angeles, immediately started tending bar at 7A, then got behind the sticks at places like Black and White (RIP) and Niagara, until he and his buddy Hayden Tobin (and his now-wife Kayla Rebentisch) started thinking, why don't we just open our own place?
That place is the just-opened bar The York on Avenue B, and it's terrific.
"We looked around in Brooklyn," Hurst told Hell Gate. "I wanted the East Village but before COVID it was too expensive here, plus the limitations, the liquor authority... it was a lot harder to do back then. Then COVID happened, prices dropped, and this place on Avenue B popped up on the map—it was a clothing store, and a T-Mobile at one point—so we just went for it."
Hurst and Tobin signed a lease in early 2021, then spent two years building out everything from scratch. Finally, just last Friday, they opened The York, a homey little bar with decent prices, a lived-in feel (Rebentisch did the design and decor), and, thanks to Tobin and chef consultant Anthony Nassif, a menu of world-class smashburgers and chicken sandwiches that totally hit the spot (even if you're not sucking down $5 pints at 9pm on a Wednesday night).
All three burgers are awesome. The "double York" delivers textbook smashburger goodness, all greasy and gloppy from melted American, caramelized onions, and special sauce. The "rodeo burger" adds a mess of crisp fried onions, bacon bits, and a zingy house-made barbecue sauce to the mix. And the "Opie's" is billed as an "Oklahoma-style" burger and involves a ton of griddled onions.
There are three versions of The York's chicken sandwich too, starting with a simple "with pickles" foundational one and then adding stuff until you get to the excellent spicy rendition. And the all-night breakfast sandwich is great too: an over-easy fried egg snuggled under a gooey cheese blanket, studded with bacon, all on an English muffin and accompanied by a crock of ketchup and a lovely oval hash brown.
The skinny, salty french fries and fat, crispy onion rings are both equally good to pair with any and all of the above, so get both if you're sharing your meal with someone special or, heck, even if you're lone-wolfing stuff. Nassif told Hell Gate that they're working on a brunch menu, and it too will have he calls a "nostalgic, fast food vibe, but with good ingredients."
Like the drinks prices here, all the food is—dare I say it—blessedly reasonable. "I think a lot of places around here are priced for the Friday and Saturday night crowd," said Hurst. "You don't have to charge so much, and you can still make enough money. You don't have to be too greedy. I think people appreciate that."
Besides, Hurst and Tobin are hoping to make The York an easy local hang rather than a drunken destination. "We really want to do something for the people who actually live in the neighborhood. A place where you go on a Tuesday night. An extension of your apartment, where you can hang out and meet your friends. That's really what we want to cultivate."
The York is located at 186 Avenue B, between 11th and 12th Streets, and is currently open for drinks from 2:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily, and for food until about 10:00 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and until 12:00 midnight on Friday and Saturday.