American: Exchange Bar & Grill

April 25, 2011 By: Serena

The day has come – Exchange Bar & Grill has the dubious honor of receiving the first 1 Apple review.  I really wanted to like this place – they use a real “drink market” concept, where drink prices fluctuate based on supply and demand (i.e. how many people order a particular drink).  The business nerd in me was super-excited to witness this in real time!  Unfortunately, the rest of the Bar & Grill was a bit disappointing…

An eating buddy had purchased a Groupon for this place – $15 for $30 worth of food and drinks, plus a free appetizer.  Exchange’s website had stated that both food and drink prices fluctuated, but on the day I went, only the drink prices were variable.  AND. And.  The bar was a bit empty, so there wasn’t enough activity to make the drink market work. How sad is that? :(  Anyway, I won’t hold it against them, but that was definitely disappointing.

I had hoped for more movement on the ticker.

We perused the menu for our free appetizer:

and decided on the loaded waffle fries (first photo).  Topped with cheese, bacon, sour cream and scallions, these waffle fries were perfect bar fare and just begging to be eaten.  I mean, I love all those things! And waffle fries! How could they be anything but good?  Well, once again I was disappointed, as the cheese on the fries had already re-congealed and hardened.  I was sad.  Cheese is one of my favorite foods, like, ever (and any type of cheese, I don’t discriminate) but the rubbery cheese on the lukewarm fries was just a bummer.

We also ordered the veggie spring rolls, served with sweet chili sauce:

Unlike the waffle fries, the spring rolls were served piping hot – and they were pretty good!  Crispy and flavorful, they were on par with a typical spring roll appy one would order from a major casual dining chain – and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  They were tasty enough, consistent, and exactly as expected.

For my main, my eating buddy ordered the Shrimp Pernod from the “Louisiana Favorites” section of the menu, featuring jumbo shrimp, asparagus, green peppercorns, and a fennel cream sauce:

The asparagus and shrimp were cooked precisely (no overcooking!) and the fennel in the cream sauce present without overwhelming the dish – however, the dish was surprisingly unseasoned.  When dining out, I generally don’t add salt EVER – my palate is usually a-OK with whatever seasoning level the chef chooses.  For this dish, it was not the case sadly.  Boo.

For my main, perhaps I was feeling nostalgic about my recent trip to NOLA, because I ordered the shrimp etouffee:

The menu described the dish as being served with rice, which it was…but it was ALSO served with pasta.  Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but is etouffee ever served over pasta?  I’m not kidding here – I’m wondering if the kitchen accidentally made the etouffee with pasta after making the shrimp pernod dish, and just decided to serve it anyway.  I was so confused.  I had the shrimp, the pasta, and the rice.  So weird!  The flavor was ok.  But I was too distracted by the numerous carbs (usually a good thing) to really appreciate anything.

Maybe we should have taken the cue from the venue (a bar) and stuck with burgers instead of venturing out into pasta.  In any case, despite friendly and helpful service, my high hopes for Exchange Bar & Grill were dashed by disappointing and confusing food.  I must say, in this case the Groupon was not worth the deal. :(

Exchange Bar & Grill
256 3rd Ave (at 21st St.)
646.506.9039

Meh.

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21 Comments to “American: Exchange Bar & Grill”


  1. I've seen this place on TV with the "market" drink prices. I always wondered if it would work on an empty night and I'm guessing not so much. Sorry for your disappointing experience! How sad!

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  2. Wow…that's crappy. No, etouffee is only served with rice…that restaurant is crazy. At that point, it's shrimp pasta LOL!

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  3. very married says:

    aw – such a disappointment! i saw the photo of the waffle fries and got excited. wish it could have been a better experience.

    can't wait to see more reviews!

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  4. Aw, boo! There's nothing worse than eating out somewhere that isn't good, especially in a city like yours where there is so much good food. But now I want those waffle fries, improved with non-congealed cheese!

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  5. Hahaha. Pasta for etouffee? Oh boy! Well, at least there was a groupon involved. And disappointment about the drink market! Boo…

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  6. I think the cajuns might start an uproar over pasta etouffee – no bueno!!

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  7. Sometimes Im afraid of real food items at a bar setting so I usually stick to burgers or little bits of things. Sorry you had a bad experience. We had a great one this weekend at an Italian restaurant and wish I had photos! :)

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  8. I'm pretty sure this is my favorite post ever. EVERRR.

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  9. lavenderpug says:

    sigh–too bad it didn't live up, but thanks for the honest review!

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  10. Try Anything Once Terri says:

    Aaww..sorry about that. Thank goodness there are lots of other places to eat in the city. Makes me wonder about Groupon though.

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  11. THE ALTERNATIVE WIFE says:

    Awh too bad! Good ol Groupons. I always get suckered. LOL

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  12. Yikes! This place sounds deserving of that 1-apple rating. Also, I applaud you for your honesty. I always really want to like new places that I try…especially ones with a fun concept like that fluctuating drink price! But the honesty is more important for the reader. Great post!

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  13. I have yet to have a good experience with a Groupon. I don't know if it's just the luck of the draw, if the business is always overwhelmed by the surge of customers due to the Groupon, or if the business sucks in general and was hoping that their Groupon would help…but unless it's for something that I normally get, I don't think I'm purchasing them any longer. Sorry this place wasn't great!

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  14. Chic 'n Cheap Living says:

    Thanks for the review and sad that it was disappointing (ugh rubbery cheese not cool!)

    xoxo,
    Chic 'n Cheap Living

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  15. I feel so dumb for commenting before I read your whole post! I love your honest review but hate that you were disappointed. :/

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  16. BigAppleNosh says:

    No worries, Jessica! I just thought you liked my 1-Apple reviews ;)

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  17. Kira @ hernewleaf says:

    Sad that it was a disappointment! I went to a bar with a similar concept while visiting Barcelona – I'm not sure if the prices were based on supply and demand or if they just fluctuated throughout the night, and every few hours the market "crashes" and sirens go off and the drink prices plummet. It was a super fun night! Hopefully this place can work out its kinks and get its act together.

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  18. Darn…it sounds like the fluctuating prices would have been a fun thing to experience if it actually worked…too bad!

    And…cold congealed cheese? No bueno. Yuckkk.

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  19. honey my heart says:

    bummer the food wasn't to your liking, but the photos make the food look yummy. now i'm craving some good cheese fries.

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  20. Creature Gorgeous says:

    I had to stop at the cheese fries. OMG, omg. This has probably already been covered thrice times over, but: how do you stay so thin with all this delectaliciousness????

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  21. Boo. There is nothing worse than cheese fries that LOOK delicious and taste BLAH. What a tease!

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