If you were questioning the fate of New York City’s dining scene, I’m here to tell you that it is still alive and just as exciting as ever. There is no better proof of this than The Thyme Bar Experience. Located in the Flatiron District, Thyme Bar opened just a month before the pandemic hit and lockdown began. But now, it seems, Thyme Bar has hit its stride with its outdoor prix fixe menu that turns artisan cocktails into an experience. “Just like how chefs create art on a plate in gastronomy, I think we can do the same with cocktails,” head bartender Jeremy Le Blanche says.

When you approach Thyme Bar’s outdoor dining set up, there is something mildly jungle-like about the plants surrounding it. As a friend and I were seated, I couldn’t help but think that it really seemed fitting for a city that is often equated to a concrete jungle. The ambiance was all there: flourishing plants, a little grey lamp that would be turned on as the sun went down, friendly and helpful wait staff and a menu to behold for any resident foodie. The cocktail side of the menu is rooted in the idea of floriography. This inspiration is described by Le Blanche as “a way of showing the language of cocktails through art with botanical elements.” The cocktail menu is nothing short of artful.

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To begin, we were served an amuse-bouche, which here took the form of a tiny coral-colored frozen cocktail named Frozen Thyme—something the waitress mentioned might leave the menu soon, as it was 64 degrees and slightly windy on this night. The little cocktail served in ornate glassware was made of Ming River baijiu, house-made coconut vodka, orange juice and grapefruit juice. It was a fun, slightly tropical way to begin our night. Shortly thereafter, we received our first round of cocktails.

Per the prix fixe-style menu, there are two different packages you can choose from for your Thyme Bar Experience: Emergence ($45), which buys you an amuse-bouche, a Le Jardin cocktail, one food item, a Floriography cocktail and a macaron of your choice; and Euphoria ($85), which buys you much of the same, the key differences between the two options being that in this option you receive three cocktails instead of two and a dessert of your choosing, along with unlocking Euphoria-exclusive selections on the menu.

“This menu is designed to be enjoyed as a full sensory experience, which I feel New Yorkers could use right now,” Le Blanche says. “It’s also the experience I have always wanted but had a hard time finding in the city.”

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As a New Yorker, I also couldn’t find any sort of outdoor dining experience like this, which is in large part what drew me to Thyme Bar. And on this particular night, we enjoyed the Emergence package, which meant we were now on to our Le Jardin cocktails.

We both ordered the Cosmic Spring (pictured left), an ethereal-looking cocktail with a stunningly large rectangular ice cube housing a delicate pink flower in it. (Note: The cocktails we received appeared slightly different than the photos.) On the side of the cocktail is a tan-colored pouch that holds a teeny tiny serum bottle and dropper with a beautifully herbaceous olive oil. We are instructed to drop the olive oil onto our tongues before taking a sip, so as to bring out the aromatics in the drink—an experiential element I haven’t been able to enjoy in dining since maybe last year. Now the drink itself is made up of Grey Goose La Vanille vodka, Roots Mastic liqueur and an aromatic tonic. This cocktail is quite refreshing and lightly citrus-y. It’s almost somewhat comparable to Sprite with its fizzy lightness and citrus-y aspect. Overall, a very nice cocktail to begin with because it is so refreshing and compliments the coming food well.

The food menu appears to be a high-end play on comfort food. For example, we ordered the truffle cheese fries and Berkshire pork belly sliders to share. And let me tell you, that was absolutely the right move. The Berkshire pork belly sliders were truly delicious. The pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth succulent and tender. The house-made brioche bun was slightly sweet and almost croissant-like in its buttery-ness. The habanero honey was tangy and sweet, and the pickled shallots offered a nice bite of acidity. On the whole, it was very well balanced between the salty and the sweet, the rich and the tangy.

Berkshire pork belly sliders

But the truffle cheese fries? They were the real star of the show for me. Admittedly, truffle fries are overplayed and usually not something to write home about. Thyme Bar’s truffle fries right the wrong of all other truffle fries. And they do this in part by not being overly doused in truffle oil. The shoestring fries have a slight earthy essence to them, but it’s all the other non-truffle elements that make these fries the stuff my fast food-fueled dreams are made of. These fries are generously seasoned with parmesan and topped with a handful of tarragon. The seasoning on the fries makes them satisfyingly salty, but also slightly lemony, a note that pairs very nicely with the Le Jardin cocktail. But the thing that makes these fries the best fries I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten a lot of fries) is the crispiness. Never have I had a fry crispier than these. Upon taking our first bites, my friend and I exchanged a knowing look that no other fry can compare. And that is a truth I now have to live with, and even more reason for me to get back to Thyme Bar.

To finish off the night, we were presented with our Floriography cocktail picks—the Primrose & Rye for me and the Sparkling Pattern (pictured right) for my friend. The Sparkling Pattern, which my friend described as “fresh, light and easy to sip and chat,” could not be more stunning or celebratory. The cocktail itself is served in a champagne flute without a base, making it fit flawlessly into a lime green vase with little cream- and orange-colored flowers poking out the top along with the glass. The Primrose & Rye then makes for a stark yet uniquely stunning contrast, as the cocktail is served in a small artistic white vase with a bamboo straw and a bouquet of wheat and bunny tail grass, served on top of a nest, which fits perfectly into the hollow of the tree trunk round this artwork-disguised-as-a-cocktail sits upon. As the waitress presents both cocktails, I catch a subtle whiff of incense, another surprise element hidden within my cocktail, between the nest and the tree trunk round.

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Primrose & Rye

The Primrose & Rye, made with a chocolate mint-infused rye whiskey, cherry wine, smoked corn silk maple syrup and lemon, felt like the perfect drink to end the night on. It was served with a piece of truffled white chocolate in the shape of honeycomb. I took a bite of the chocolate and then sipped the drink. The white chocolate complimented the sweet chocolate note in the drink and paired nicely with the note of mint that I found to be the most prominent flavor in the drink. There was a slight burn on the tongue from the whiskey, and a slight citrusy note as well. The best way to describe this drink is hearty, full-bodied and malty—a good cocktail to compliment a light dessert.

To finish, we were served classic French macarons on a dainty, little plate. I ordered a raspberry one, and my friend a chocolate one. It was everything you expect from a macaron—crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. The raspberry one was tangy, sweet and slightly sharp. A lovely note to end with, as a waiter came by and tapped on our little grey lamp, signaling that it was officially night in the city that still doesn’t sleep.

The Thyme Bar Experience runs through September 26, so if you’re in the New York City area and want to enjoy a one-of-a-kind outdoor dining experience, I would highly recommend giving this a try.