If you thought that people disappear from Wall Street when the stock market closes, you would be wrong. Many of them repair to hangouts to relax and drink and churn over the day’s trades and scams. (Just kidding about the latter). And a new favorite place, judged by the numbers of people who flock to the bar in the late afternoon, is the Malt House FiDi [it means Financial District]. It’s a bar-café specializing in craft beers and cocktails with very good small plates. Especially good for a place that bills itself as a bar. After your drinks, stay here for dinner.

the-malt-house-the-bar-from-balconyThe venue is a large 1880s building that was originally a bank, which explains the grand archways. It’s very attractive brick and woody brown and multi-level. The main area is two-stories high, with a 60-foot bar, a section with dark wood tables and banquettes and a balcony with more tables. Billed as an American tavern, it opened in May 2015. There was a buzz when I arrived at 7; after 7:30 or 8, it got quieter as the bar crowd left.

Chef Armando Avila has taken Mexican-inflected dishes and cooled them down for American tastes so that they are mildly spicy and delicately seasoned. My favorite small plates, appetizers and entrées, went perfectly with Malt House beers, cocktails and some very good wines.

the-malt-house-crab-artichoke-dipAvocado-bacon deviled eggs was slightly spicy with Sriracha (chili) aioli, avocado, bacon and serrano peppers. I wouldn’t have guessed the guacamole. It seemed more like a soft paté. Interesting to mix the chili and aioli – an oil and garlic sauce.

Crab and artichoke dip featured jumbo lump crab in a dip of cheese and spinach, to be scooped up with plantain chips. It was creamy and just a bit spicy.

the-malt-house-braised-short-rib-slidersI liked the slow-braised short rib sliders. They were pan-seared and topped with pickles, shallots, rosemary and caramelized onions, and set on a brioche. Delicate and rich.

For a more substantial fare, I liked the Wagyu House blend burger, with hickory smoked bacon, pesto aioli, oven-roasted tomato and bib lettuce on a brioche. You pick the cheese. The edges of the beef were seared, the inside rare and nicely seasoned.

the-malt-house-blackened-salmon-with-grilled-onions-avocado-and-aioliI especially enjoyed the blackened salmon with grilled onions, avocado, and Sriracha aioli on a soft roll. It was delicate and oniony. (So glad Chef Armando likes garlic!)

My only disappointments were the chicken dishes. The appetizer, buttermilk bites, was Southern fried chicken with cilantro, jalapeno and aioli ranch dressing. I found it too fried. An entrée roast chicken with mashed potatoes, sautéed kale and mushrooms was nothing special.

The signature spicy dishes work well with alcoholic drinks. Most of the patrons want craft beer and cocktails. “Barry White saved my life” is a pleasing white, lemony, citrusy, foamy concoction with dry gin, coconut, spices and lemon zest. I liked the drink but never did find out who Barry White was!* I enjoyed a smoky Old Fashioned.

I’m a wine maven. The list is small but had excellent choices. I tried the whites. The Sauvignon Blanc was distinctive and the Vouvray clear, rich, full, a little sweet. Not as good: the Chardonnay was light, not as flavorful as expected from a Chardonnay, and the Fumé Blanc was not defined enough.

the-malt-houseBy then, I had reached my alcohol quotient! (I would have tried the reds, especially Malbec from Argentina and the Merlot from Sonoma.)

To find your favorite beers, order a “flight,” which gives you a sampling of four. Out of 40 draft beers. There are flights of whiskey, too. Out of the more than 200 American whiskies. The place is owned by two guys from Ireland, so you know the brews and spirits are good!

*OK, I was just informed that he was a world-famous R&B/soul singer. But I am a jazz and cabaret fan! So drink a Barry White to toast Barry White!

The Malt House FiDi
9 Maiden Lane between Broadway and Nassau, New York City. (Fulton Street subways)
(646) 682-7577

Mon-Fri lunch & dinner 11am–midnight.
Happy hour Mon-Fri 4pm to 6pm, $1 oysters, $3 to $6 small plates, $6 wine.
Sat & Sun brunch 11am to 4pm, dinner 4pm to midnight.
Wine Day Sun 11am to midnight, half price on all bottles of wine.

There is another Malt House in Greenwich Village on Thompson Street. Look here.

Photos by Lucy Komisar.
Visit Lucy’s website, The Komisar Scoop.