DINING: Thirsty Scholar schools 16th Street on cafe culture

September 21, 2013

Clearly, the educated minds behind the Thirsty Scholar (111 E. 16th St., 602-3357) have done their share of trying to impress professors.

ae-apb-dining-thirtyscholar01-15col.jpg The menu at Thirsty Scholar is geared toward grazers. Above, the Cheese & Meat Tray. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

Just read the menu, which devotes fewer words to food than it does to celebrating a place designed for “the camaraderie of gathering or the self-exploration of solitude.”

Even when it can’t get its pronouns and nouns to agree (“…they are the composer of their own symphony”), Thirsty Scholar demonstrates a flair for the florid. Housed in the Penn Arts building, the drinkery embraces the feel of its surrounding structure, from its iron railing to its marble tabletops and sculpted busts. Drive down 16th Street in the evening and the big front windows seem like movie screens showing a retro-cool film. It certainly beats the McDonald’s/CVC combo down the block.

The focus inside, beyond atmosphere, is on coffee, beer and wine. Scholars who are hungry rather than thirsty should find more satisfaction elsewhere, since you won’t find an operating kitchen here or even a grill.

But those looking to graze while debating the merits of Fitzgerald vs. Hemingway, should be satisfied. There’s some decision making required for those opting for Chips & Dip ($3) with variables in both halves of the snack equation. For the former, there’s Sea Salt, Sour Cream & Onion, Funky Fusion and more. For the latter, Honey Mustard, Thirsty Scholar Mustard Sauce and others are offered

Guacamole ($7) provides a dense, house-made scoop of dark green goodness, slightly spicy and sans tomato. Better is the house-made sauce that accompanies the Veggies & Green Goddess (steep at $10). The Cheese & Meat Tray ($10) varies daily. The day we were there, it offered a nice variety of thin slices for the carnivores and thicker wedges for the rest, all ideally parked on Amelia’s bread. The only downside for me was a hot chocolate served barely lukewarm.

Early-early to late hours make this a great place to stop when too soon for a meeting or needing some wind-down after a busy night. Free parking during the day around back makes it a comfortable stop if you find yourself with downtime between mid-day appointments. Cupcakes from 111 Cakery (also in the Penn Arts Building), Best Chocolate in Town chocolates and an assortment of cookies are available in the $2-$3 range if you feel guilty taking up restaurant space while finishing office work on your laptop. Or regretting the fool you made of yourself earlier in the evening.•

—Lou Harry


Fourth in a month-long series of just-out-of-downtown dining reviews.


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