Hi-Life Bar & Grill is a casual, comfortable, reliable Upper West Side restaurant and bar. With retro-neon signage, basic furniture, a weathered, mahogany bar and leather booths they invest in food rather than fancy décor. Cooking is straight-from-the hip without regressing to pub-fare bland. Bread is bread, coffee is coffee, napkins are paper. The roster of international appetizers which double as bar fare includes steamed dumplings, guacamole, Chinatown spareribs and popcorn shrimp.
The Kitchen at Hi-Life Bar & Grill
Fish is well cooked (try the Asian inspired tuna with brown rice and vegetables), pork chops are flavorful, flame-grilled burgers, including turkey or veggie versions, arrive succulent. Come autumn, the very good chicken pot pie will once again be appealing.
This is not a menu that buries meat or poultry in gravy or uses mayonnaise in salads. There’s also a full sushi and sashimi menu which arrived ahead of the trend and whose devotees keep it an established part of the house.
Portion size is generous. Big Bowl Pastas (penne, whole wheat penne, or spaghetti) and salads are accurately named. Grilled chicken-citrus salad is my favorite. A great combination of sweet, tart and crunchy, the healthy alternative more than satisfies. Entrees come with a choice of two basic sides. Vegetables are nicely al dente.
Many of the varied brunch selections are served with lightly dressed greens and terrific hand-cut fries. Ah, the fries! Out of their popularity has risen a veritable smorgasbord of choices. One can order a cone $3.95 or Basket $5.95 with Ketchup, Malt Vinegar and a choice of Dill/Lemon Mayo, Pesto Mayo, Horseradish Mayo or Spicy Sushi Sauce. The option works wonders on restless, hungry children or at the bar. Among desserts are Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, of course) or New York Cheesecake for purists, but also a Sour Cream Walnut Pie.
The Scene at Hi-Life Bar & Grill
This is actually an establishment that caters to both a bar crowd and families, the latter often happily ensconced out on the windowed “porch.” (There’s also some seating on Amsterdam Avenue.) The wait staff is kid friendly and accommodating. With an unpretentiously friendly bar offering ales and ciders as well as beer, wine, and mixed drinks, the place predictably gets crowded and louder on weekends and game nights. Not having lost a whit of popularity in 21 years, it fills up- but turns over. Gage your hunger and the throng accordingly. You’ll appreciate not being rushed when in the seats yourselves.
Hi-Life is one of the best dining deals in the hood. Early Bird Specials- 4:30- 7pm weeknights include half-priced sushi and sashimi, lower priced Big Bowl pastas and salads (normally around $15.00) and Kirin pints or pitchers of Coors Light-different nights, different dishes. It’s possible to dine early without bending let alone breaking the bank. Good for evenings there’s nothing in the frig but leftover Chinese and yoghurt, when you’ve spent the day in wall to wall meetings and just need a drink and to be served and on weekends when the UWS brunch bunch has somehow multiplied en route. Midnight happy hour offers $3.00 Stella Artois and $5.00 cosmos should you not want to go directly home after a film or party.
Hi-Life Bar and Grill
477 Amsterdam Avenue, at 83rd Street
212 787 7199
Dinner Sun-Thu: 4pm-11pm Fri-Sat: 4pm-2am ; Brunch Sat-Sun: 10:30am-4pm