The best way to describe The Aviary is to tell you that it’s on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Columbus Circle, and that there’s a $28 cocktail that involves various chemistry class contraptions and smoke, and it’s called “Science A.F.” If you’re not familiar, that’s teen-speak meaning “as f*ck,” which has now been adopted by corporate marketing departments. And that’s a good way to describe The Aviary: it’s something that was once cool, but which has been ruined by a corporate marketing department. The original Aviary is in Chicago, and it’s the wacky but cool cocktail bar run by the people behind the famed creative tasting menu restaurant Alinea - and in Chicago, we are big fans. But The Aviary here is in a hotel where it feels like a cross between The Jetsons and a fancy airport lounge. The drinks are interesting and fun in presentation - there’s one that involves a rubber band slingshot, and another that is basically a cocktail terrarium - but they don’t taste very interesting, or even that good. Also, the service is a mess - we had about six different servers, and it took about 40 minutes to get a check. When you’re paying $28 a drink, that’s not cool. It’s mostly a bar, but there is some food, which is tasty, but absurdly priced (like $20 for a single tapas-sized bite). Overall, we’d say: spend your money elsewhere.
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