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1751 Social Club

Where Anything (and Everyone) Goes

1751 Social Club, located in the Fulton Street building formerly occupied by the Creole restaurant and hip-hop club Storyville, was a mystery to us. Considering the slew of "Best of CitySearch" awards that were claimed in 2004 by the tiny, seemingly obscure spot in a quiet, residential neighborhood, we couldn’t help but wonder what all the fuss was about. With just the right amount of kitsch, a menu full of nicely-priced comfort food, and a happening club scene to boot, the mystery quickly dissolved. 1751 is aptly named; it’s a social gathering space with vibrant personality, giving it true mass appeal.

Genuinely American in its eclecticism, the menu features homestyle interpretations ranging from pastas to chili con carne. To start our meal, we couldn’t help but indulge in the St. Andre’s Cheese and Spinach Dip ($4.95). Served with thick, toasty pita points, the somewhat soupy but delightfully sinful cheese dip made us melt. Another appetizer, the Southwest Style Egg Rolls ($4.95), didn’t meet with quite the same acclaim. Their spicy contents lacked the robust flavor that we’d expected. The Chili con Carne Asada ($3.95/4.95) brought us around though, with its big, hearty chunks of meat and bold flavor. And a palate-cleansing Butter Lettuce Salad with candied pecans, stinky bleu cheese and apple slices ($6.95) made a great impression.

Like the appetizers, the service was hot and cold. The staff takes a very lax approach to customer service (there may or may not be someone up front to greet you; the host may very well be chatting behind the bar). But despite the fact that the water glasses sat empty for a while, our server was pleasant and engaging. And attitude is everything.

The main courses cover most of your basic crowd-pleasers. The plain jane presentation wasn’t too shocking, given the home-cooked flavor of the establishment. The Baked Penne ($11.95) may look like skillet of pizza, for example, but the spices present something authentically satisfying. The double-fried Country Fried Chicken Breast ($12.95) was also absent of any bells and whistles, but who needs their fried chicken dressed up anyway?? Served with the expected mashed potatoes, vegetable, and silky gravy, the kitchen delivers all the goods in no-fuss fashion.

Bulging at the belt, we still managed to sample some amazing Flourless Chocolate Cake with raspberry and caramel sauce ($4.95). Heaven. The Crème Brulee ($4.95) paled in comparison, with its lumpy, jelly-like consistency and weak vanilla flavoring. The final finish reinforced our overall impression of the cuisine: basic, decent, straightforward, crowd-pleasing.

What’s even more crowd-pleasing at 1751 is the atmosphere. A laid-back dining experience morphs into a blood-pumping dance party when the clock strikes 11. The back room -- also a private party space -- has its own bar to keep glasses full. The main dining room gets a makeover in the late hours, as well. Tables are pushed back and DJs or local musicians get the place shaking.

The funky interior adds to the upbeat vibe. With exposed brick, a fireplace, orange and blue walls, and a kitschy blue bar with diner-style stools, patrons get the message that this is a place where anything goes.

And everyone goes. The Suits, the Club Cats, and the Little-Black-Dresses all turn out for the fun. Large parties abound. The crowd is youngish (grandma may not dig the tunes), and they sit at the long booth, the group-ready tables or the velvet couch. Add two flat-screen TVs to the mix, and it’s clear that 1751 Social Club has found a one-lounge-fits-all formula.