Surf Hell's Kitchen

New York is a big city. Bars on every block, restaurants and retail shops all over the place. But a surf bar in the Big Apple? A little slice of paradise amidst the chaos. Nothing's missing in New York. Named after a small French island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, Réunion is located in the basement of an old building in Hell's Kitchen, on the northeast corner of 44th and 9th. The sign out front reads: 'Turn an average Beach Day into an EPIC TALE OF RADNESS.' Sounds like my kind of show.

Réunion is owned by Thomas Wilson, a surfer from Martha's Vineyard who spent more than three years traveling the world, from Nicaragua to Tunisia, Malibu to Montauk. When he returned with "a touch of frostbite and a fully solidified entrepreneurial spirit," Tom decided New York needed something new.

The aesthetic is inviting. Tropical but not trendy. Corrugated aluminum sheets hang from the ceiling. A little space between each one shows you a slice of the night sky. The cocktails are fantastic. Zombies and Mai Tais make everything better.

Tom kicked it with us for a while. We talked about surfboards on the subway and the Quiksilver contest at Rockaway. We drank rum. He told me about riding his cafe bike across the country. He showed me around, pointing out pictures of his father, 'Big Wave Dave,' that hang on a few of the walls.

There's quite the collection of boards in the bar. Tom surfs all of them. Wax and sand on every one.

The bartenders know their shit. When I mentioned I was surprised they had proper Mai Tais on the menu, the bartender replied: "That's because this is a proper bar." Indeed it is.

I don't know when I'll visit New York again, or if I'll have the opportunity to surf. But I do know that the next time I find myself on that side, I'll return to Réunion for good company and great cocktails.

Additional info is available here.

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