Ella, the new retro piano bar on Avenue A, might take its name from Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald, but its themed after a much moodier woman, Mommie Dearest herself, Joan Crawford. A puzzling choice for motif, yes, but one that makes sense: the space's interior designer, Carleton Varney of design firm Dorothy Draper & Company, worked on Crawford's homes, and from the beautiful black and white photo of her over the bar (or at least we think it was her -- the bartender shrugged when we asked) to the door man, who, in one breath, told us they were closed for a private party, but that he "supposed" he could let us in, Ms. Crawford's notoriously icy presence is felt. But bitchiness aside, Varney evokes the glamour of early Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in this bi-level space with lipstick red booths, dripping chandeliers and mirrors topped with baroque shells. And while it's Joan upstairs, Ella gets her nod with the basement piano bar. The lounge's real saving grace, however, is its cocktail list. The Daisy Kenyon was a nice take on a Mojito, with grenadine and muddled red grapes lightly offset by the crispness of the mint, and a Dorothy Draper champagne cocktail made with Ricard and bitters was herbaceous and bright. Sadly, we visited on a Saturday, and dealing with the Avenue A and Houston location was as pleasant as getting hit with a wire hanger. But if you're brave, and have a new cigarette case to show off, then Ella's your girl.
9 Ave. A
Photo from nymag.com