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1751 Social Club

Fancied-up Pub Food Set to Music

The last time I visited 1751 Social Club, I surmised that I wouldn't go out of my way to come back. It was good fare, but the overall experience didn't blow me away, nor did it blow me back in. Former reviewers had been similarly nonplussed by trips to 1751 Social Club, reinforcing the idea that the space that once housed the ill-fated Creole/jazz/hip-hop supper club, Storyville, was somehow cursed.

However, new owners took over the restaurant in mid-July 2005, introducing an inexpensive menu of fancied-up pub food that ranges from wings, fish tacos and calamari to burgers, caesars, hot sandwiches, and pastas, with nothing ringing in over $10. Current after-dinner club nights (10pm-2am) include parties featuring the likes of True-Skool, Future Primitive, Fresco, and PST, covering hip-hop, house, funk, jazz broken beat, and future soul.

The garish blue and bright yellow paint job is gone, changed to a more palatable, neutral olive-grey. The only piece of artwork that stands out (and not in a sore thumb kind of way) is a tribal mask above the fireplace. Even though the look is more consistent than before, I do miss the random collection of paintings by local artists that used to share space on the walls. It gave an eccentric appeal to the place. Every time I've been to 1751, the bar is livelier than the dining area. It's loud and boisterous like a sports bar, but not so obnoxious that you have to scream your order.

Frankly, there's not much on the new menu to cater to vegetarians, but the Veggie Delight sandwich ($7) might satisfy some, tacky name aside. It's a grilled pile of squash, eggplant and peppers on a crusty baguette slathered with a pesto that tasted more like a salad vinaigrette. Not too shabby, but maybe take that baguette off the grill a bit sooner, because the char almost ruined it for me.

What really did it for me was the Spicy Pasta Alla' Arrabiata ($7.50), like the soft-spoken date you lean in to pay attention to. Usually pastas can be a bit too "bling bling" for my tastes: overdone, over-sauced -- over before it begins. But here is where the restaurant shines. They had me on the fresh tomatoes, the garlic, and just the right amount of bite that came with the hot pepper. And to top it off, the head cook delivered this separate little bowl of phenomenal, juicy meatballs, an old family recipe of his. Not on the menu, but such a nice homestyle touch to the dish.

The baked Mac 'n Cheese ($5) definitely deserves a boost from the "Quick Bites" section of the menu to the main course arena; it lends a decent upscale taste to one of my favorite soul food classics.

Notably, the club will close in early 2006 to reopen as a more lounge-y restaurant/club called Poleng. 1751 will be a completely different shade of restaurant by next summer, with a new name, newer look, new everything, but for now, if you're in the hood, stop by. There's lots of eye candy for the late 20s, 30-something hipster variety, hip hop on the spin, and cheap but classy bar food in portions that won't overwhelm you.

American Comfort Cuisine