Sure New York is the city that never sleeps, but as most locals (and few tourists) know, places still tend to shut down after 2:00 a.m. — especially during the week. Not so at Employees Only, the West Village institution open until 4:00 a.m., seven days a week.
This includes the kitchen, which churns out everything from steak tartare to oysters to hanger steak up until 3:15 a.m., when the last orders are taken. “We usually get a rush right around 2:30 a.m.,” chef Julia Jaksic says. The grand finale, then, arrives around 3:30, when the kitchen dishes out cups of chicken noodle soup to send off revelers with a little more nourishment than booze.
We dropped by one Thursday night (or rather, Friday morning) to catch the kitchen staff, and co-owner Igor Hadzismajlovic in action.
First glance at the kitchen, where Ernesto Gonzalez is manning the line.
A steady stream of orders starts trickling in — most popular being the Parmesan fries, followed by the steak tartare and lamb chops.
Chef Jaksic finishes up the pickles to be served the next day.
Ernesto plates some lamb and bone marrow poppers, which chef Jaksic helps garnish.
The soup gets some finishing seasonings — a squeeze of lemon and some salt. “We typically go through four quarts on slow nights, six on the weekends,” Jaksic says.
Ernesto plates a grilled cheese with chicken for staff members, many of whom work 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. “They order off a staff menu,” Jaksic explains, which also includes a hamburger “Igor” style — medium with cheese and Parmesan fries.
Igor and Julia dish out the chicken soup for tipsy revelers upstairs.
They hand out soup to the crowd, and run out in minutes. A few hungry ones get seconds.
Meanwhile, the kitchen downstairs receives a late-night delivery of fresh pitas.
Six minutes before closing time — and the bar is still packed. “We put on Tom Waits around 3:30 a.m. to get people out,” manager Allyson Noman says. “And then [the bouncer] Robert comes in.”
A few stragglers finish up their last drink, while the bar clears out.
And as a ritual, bartender Milos Zica and Igor get some beers, bust out some cigarettes, and start counting the bills.