Tavern on the scene 

Suburban charms infuse Midtown's McCray's Sixth Steet Tavern

Before I've even stepped into McCray's Sixth Street Tavern, I'm gripped with apprehension. Three young servers so clean-cut and wholesome in appearance that they could be fresh from a summer of camp counseling are clustered in the small entranceway, smiling with menus in hand. For the first time in decades, I'm afraid I'm dressed inappropriately. Should I go home and switch the vintage curly lamb coat and metallic red leather boots I'm wearing for a cashmere twin-set and navy mid-heel pumps?

With rising and recently completed condo-monsters paces away in nearly every direction, McCray's Sixth Street Tavern brings what feels an awful lot like the suburbs to Midtown. An interior of gleaming lacquered wood, exposed brick walls and the sort of large beveled mirrors emblazoned with beer logos usually found in corporate sports bars lends McCray's a sterile feel. While the atmosphere is comparatively tame and overwhelmingly hetero in a neighborhood that is home to Blake's and Babs, it isn't entirely white bread, and it most certainly isn't boring.

Service is chipper, fast and attentive -- almost to the point of pushy, if being asked for a food order every 90 seconds within 10 minutes of being seated is evidence. Great beers are on tap, such as Chimay Triple and Flying Dog. The wine list is much better than one would expect, with a number of selections that would pair well and affordably with the hefty pasta dishes on offer.

Half the menu is suited to guests who are there for the tipple, and the remaining items are perfect for casual diners. The classic bar food is exceptional, such as the homemade potato chips slathered in a Gorgonzola sauce. Substantially cut for sturdy crunch yet thin enough to fry up caramelized and greaseless, the chips are worthy of repeat visits on their own merit. New York Sabretts hot dogs under a crisp tangle of kraut snap tantalizingly as you bite into them. Burger patties are hand-shaped and flame-licked on a grill. The pasta dishes are tunes straight out of the Italian-American songbook. Purists might have a howl over the rigatoni with Bolognese, which is too wet and too tomatoey for a proper Bolognese. But the beefy sauce is deeply satisfying nonetheless, and the pasta is cooked to bouncy, toothy al dente perfection.

Although McCray's and the bulk of its clientele may seem as if they've been plucked right out of Vinings, it was no less than awash with holiday cheer once it filled up. A well-heeled family seated at an adjacent table -- its female members draped in velvet and pearls, its men decked out in khaki and navy blazers -- raised its pint glasses in unison with ours. Cheers, y'all. Having a good time's a universal thing.

cynthia.wong@creativeloafing.com

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