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New Jazz-Inspired Restaurant Pays Tribute to Duke Ellington

By Emily Frost | March 26, 2013 7:21am

UPPER WEST SIDE — New bar and restaurant The Ellington pays tribute to jazz great Duke Ellington — but not with live music.

The recently opened eatery takes its name from its location at the corner of Duke Ellington Boulevard and Amsterdam Avenue, and features cocktails inspired by The Duke's famous songs, including "Prelude to a Kiss" and the "Slow Ride on an A Train."

A portrait of Ellington hangs on the wall.

But while several jazz aficionados have come into The Ellington thinking it's a new jazz bar, the restaurant aims to offer more of a "subtle tribute" to Ellington and does not intend to become a music club, manager Roger Clark said.

The homey gastropub with a gourmet menu marks established Greenwich Village restaurateur Glenda Sansone's first foray into the Upper West Side dining scene after she decamped from the Village with her growing family three years ago.

Sansone wanted to open a restaurant that would appeal to families in the neighborhood, Clark said.

"You see strollers everywhere and she felt there wasn't anything for 30-something professionals — she felt there weren't enough cozy neighborhood places," said Clark, who is running the restaurant after Sansone gave birth to her second child in mid-March, when The Ellington first opened its doors.

The interior, designed by Benjamin and Erin Kay of Adorn Designs, "is a simple but rustic look," said Clark, like a "country kitchen," replacing a restaurant called The Neighborhood, which "looked more like an '80s diner," he said.

Chef Lester Almanzar, who has worked at Dovetail and in restaurants in London and Spain, is offering dishes such as a quinoa salad with golden baby beets, goat cheese balls and pickled red beets, and fish and chips with a minted pea puree. 

One menu item that's quickly become popular is the authentic sausage and mash made with traditionally coiled Cumberland sausage, mashed potatoes and warm braised red cabbage. Clark said Almanzar is using one of the Clark family's recipes from Northern England.

"It's slightly more sophisticated," Clark said.

The restaurant has daily happy hours and a 4 a.m. closing time but also plans to make brunch a big part of the business. A 56-seat sidewalk cafe was just approved to open when the weather gets warmer.