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Schiller’s Liquor Bar: McNally’s Black Sheep?

Schiller’s Liquor Bar has all the signature trademarks of a Keith McNally restaurant: casually-distressed furniture, a spangly backlit bar, an impeccably designed dining room, and hip fashionable servers. Yet, unlike Morandi, Pastis, and The Odeon (the three other McNally establishments I’ve visited), Schiller’s lacks any sense of quality or urgency in the kitchen. While the look perfectly suits both the surrounding neighborhood and the target audience, the food is utterly uninspired and poorly executed.

In a bright and airy space on the Lower East Side, Schiller’s is clearly geared to the neighborhood’s youthful, ‘hipster’ and casual population. The dining room has floor to ceiling windows that open to the street, a large and curvy bar for solo dining or drinks, industrial-style furniture, distressed wood floors, and all sorts of well-curated vintage touches. Tables are set with flatware and dishware you’d see in a diner, dishcloth napkins, and a single flower. The jeans-and-tshirt servers look as though they could give two shits about you, yet somehow, through the BS attitude, they rarely fail to deliver orders efficiently.

The food is the real problem at Schiller’s. Although the menu is very reasonably priced and creatively-designed (scene-appropriate pen scribbles on faux note paper), the modern American cuisine is tasteless and overcooked. It smacks of  bad diner food, at a 50% premium, and tastes as though made from low quality ingredients. At brunch, everything looks good from the Huevos Rancheros to the Croque Monsieurs and Madames to Sour Cream & Hazelnut Waffles to American breakfast classics like Eggs Benedict, French Toast, Steak & Eggs, and a New York Bagel with Cream Cheese & Lox. With options such as these, you’d expect big bold savory flavors, yes? No. The sour cream & hazelnut waffles were overcooked and dry with undefinable muddy flavors – you knew something was different about these waffles but only the occasional hazelnut crunch gave away that nuts were involved. My dining partner Laura thought the poached eggs were better, yet the sides of home fries and bacon inexcusably anemic – who wants wilted and under-salted potatoes? Even the Balthzar bread basket looked less than promising with dry breads and pastries stacked atop one another.

It’s really too bad that Schiller’s falls so short on the food front, as every other component is spot-on for the Lower East Side dining scene – it’s hip, open late, casual, stocked with great cocktails, and gimmicky enough to attract crowds without being cheesy. Honestly though, if you want diner food, head to the 24hr Remedy Diner, just down the block.

Perfect For: cocktails at the bar, group dinners, casual meal with friends, cheap and rowdy pre-game spot, boozy brunch

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