My wife and I hit the Vinegar Hill House with another couple last night. We live a few blocks away and have wanting to try it. We planned for an 8pm dinner and showed up at 7:40pm with our bottles of wine (they don't have their liquor license yet) and sat at the bar. It was Saturday night, but a slow one because of the weather. The place was only about 1/2 full. The bartender said "It should be picking up any minute" and as if on cue, the place filled up inside 10 minutes. By the time our friends arrived, the place was packed!
The atmosphere is just what I imagined. Easy, comfortable, relaxing atmosphere with totally chill servers. If we'd been in California, the phrase of the day would have been "No worries, dude. It's all good." Not sure what the NYC equivalent is, but that was the vibe.
We were sat around 8:30pm, having reserved our table when we walked in. The food was also as expected - very homey, very competent and very delicious. Nothing particularly memorable, but great home cooking.
For appetizers, the ladies had the bean soup special - cannellini beans with pork in a gentle broth. It was great, and something you felt like you could make at home (in a good way). We also ordered the Chicken Liver Mousse, which was fantastic. It came with some crackin' good bread and was just a little better than you even would have expected. I had the mussels, despite all of the negative comments posted here about them. The waiter assured me they were good and he was right! There were a ton of them, they were all plump and delicious and the chili broth was fantastic. Everyone with me tried one and agreed that they were terrific. So don't be afraid of ordering them.
For entrees, one ordered the pork ribs. They were delicious and tender. Quite salty and flavorful too. The rest of us had the infamous chicken. The chicken in the pan was delicious, but not particularly memorable. That's not a complaint, but I'm not sure where all of the rapturous accolades came from. It's a very good dish. The broth in the pan was quite vinegary - not a strict chicken jus. I didn't really prefer it - just my taste - but the others liked it quite a bit. it was surprising to us all.
After we finished our entrees we sat there for at least 45 minutes before anyone came over to us. By that time it was 10:45pm (it's a VERY relaxed dinner, despite the bustle) and we had to leave, so no dessert was had.
All in all, it's a fantastic neighborhood place, similar to Noodle Pudding in quality. I'm not sure it's worth a trip from elsewhere - perhaps for the atmosphere, but not necessarily for the food. As a local joint, though, it's a place I'd visit quite often. They'll do well, I expect.