By Sally Koslow
“We are now officially the Upper West Side’s restaurant row,” I heard a man say as the doors to The Ellington swung open Tuesday night for its splashy friends-and-family opening. Anticipated for more than a year at 2745 Broadway (105th Street)—with Calle Ocho, Serafina, Café du Soleil and Szechuan Garden just steps away—the long slog of Covid quarantine and construction hassles is over. The spacious watering hole that once housed Henry’s will be serving customers as of September 8.
West Side Rag readers may know The Ellington’s owner, Glenda Sansone, from Ellington in the Park, her seasonal Riverside Park restaurant, or her bustling bistro, also called The Ellington, on Amsterdam and 106. (Ms. Sansone closed the latter as preparations for the new Ellington got real.)
“I finally have a restaurant big enough to do all the things I’ve always dreamt of,” she says, adding that, “Our cuisine is classic American comfort food.” But as a resident of The Clebourne, the co-op building that houses The Ellington on its first floor facing Broadway—and, as a result, a lucky invitee to the kickoff celebration–I felt Ms. Sansone was being overly modest. The fare may be classic and comforting, with plenty of burgers and beers available, but the atmosphere is decidedly elegant and the menu offers many complex dishes. It’s the kind of place that may make you want to kick it up a notch or two on your local schleppy-to-casual fashion spectrum. Not that you wouldn’t be welcomed here in your hoodie or yoga pants. This is the Upper West Side.
The restaurant has been redone down to the studs in rich, dark tones with a lengthy bar perfect for meeting or making a friend, many tables (though not too many—you can have a conversation here) ranging from two’s-a-crowd intimate to large and convivial. The lighting is romantic and a grand piano reinforces the special-occasion mood. Two additions to the previous design should be noted. There is now a handicap-accessible bathroom on the first floor, and — my favorite feature — a private, glass-enclosed party room suitable for as many as 40 diners or, I imagine, a larger number if you’re planning a non-seated cocktail party. I have already imagined several parties I’d like to host in this space. For that matter, if you booked the whole restaurant you could throw a blowout wedding or Bar Mitzvah here. Just saying.
Oh, the food and drink. My husband and I toasted The Ellington with one of its signature cocktails, a Duke’s Wish: dry vermouth, Aperol, macerated strawberries and rose soda. We followed with two small plates: shrimp dumplings and tuna & avocado tartare, both delicious. Believing any restaurant is only as good as its fries, he sunk his teeth into a juicy burger with all the trimmings and wasn’t disappointed. I chose chili-glazed salmon with vegetable risotto and sautéed spinach, which was perfectly done. For dessert, we pigged out on molten lava chocolate cake and possibly the best crème brulee I’ve ever tasted. In each case, the presentation was simple but posh.
I look forward to my next visit to The Ellington so I can sample some of the bar snacks (blistered Shishido peppers and truffle fries, let’s say,) the short ribs, a side of sour cream mashed potato and…well, you’re just going to have to go there yourself and decide. Meanwhile, I wish Glenda Sansone, her talented chef, and her charming, eager-to-please staff warm congratulations and a full house. L’chaim!
Sally Koslow has seen the UWS restaurant scene evolve since she moved here in the 70’s. She is the author of six books—the latest: Another Side of Paradise, about F. Scott Fitzgerald—and more magazine articles than she can count.