Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Nicholas Karlin
It’s that magical time of the year when couples collectively lose their minds (aka spend way too much money on scant tasting menus) and single people start to feel a little more alone (and a little closer to death’s eternal embrace). Valentine’s Day is around the corner and Iron Gate wants you to go full throttle and explore your feelings about love, whether they involve joy, passion, melancholy or all three. Like last year, the bar has been transformed into a Valentine’s Day pop up called the Tunnel of Love, featuring the kind of cute throwback decorations you’d find at a high school dance, except this time, things are getting dark.
Half of the menu this year is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre tales of love. In 2017, everything was shades of pink and red, but this year the decor skews black and thoroughly emo. If Hot Topic circa 2006 opened a bar, this would be the place. The duality extends into both the drink and dinner menu. The “Full Hearts” section features all of the traditional flavors, colors and themes you’d expect, while the “Heartbreakers” menu gets real gothy real fast.
If you’re really looking to go all out and revel in the ridiculousness that is Valentine’s Day, order the Galentine’s Day on the drink menu. The $20 per person cocktail tray involves a couple of glasses of champagne, Rodham Rye cocktails and a helping of house made truffles. Yes, you’re essentially starting your dinner off with dessert, but you’re an adult and you can do anything you want. It’s always been that way.
Not looking for a crazy sugar buzz? Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fungus is an entirely different option. Featuring scotch, bitters and Iron and Rust Chinato (an Italian liqueur) that’s been infused with truffles, the cocktail doesn’t sound especially drinkable, but the dark and potent smelling drink goes down so smoothly. You get a lot of truffle at first, but the scotch does wonders at mellowing it out, creating an unusual drink we’d easily order again.
Now that you’re all boozed up, it’s time to talk about food. The grilled Tangier Island oysters are cooked perfectly and paired with goat’s milk butter, calabrian chili and pickled shallot to form the ultimate snack. Need something a little meatier? You could easily go with the short rib which is delicious (and huge), but we loved the bison tartare with beets, dill and a shaved foie gras torchon. The brightness of the beets and the earthy dill compliment the tartare exceptionally well, while the foie gras adds a subtle richness. Still hungry? “Quoth The Chicken Nevermore” is essentially a souped up chicken parm and we loved every bite.
You started off with dessert and you should end with dessert too. While the sculptural design of the blackout cake is fun, skip it and go for the white chocolate mousse. The sabayon and shortbread are light and sweet, but not so rich they’re going to put you to bed as soon as you slip into your Lyft. We ate every bite and that seldom happens.
Whether you’re celebrating with friends, a partner, or you just want to treat yourself to a truffle and cocktail tray (no shame in that), Iron Gate’s Tunnel of Love wont lead you wrong.