Peel’s is the brand new, surprisingly polished, very white, comfortable sister to taxidermied hipster restaurant Freeman’s. It’s a slightly more upscale diner with a takeout counter and a big long bar.
The savvy Freeman’s people know that cocktails attract customers like bees to honey, so even though it’s diner food, you can get a pretty damn involved cocktail. That’s why a cocktail is $13 and a cheeseburger is $12. Must be those hand-muddled juices.
a peek at the menu
The wide, high-top wood communal tables on the first floor are my favorite. Peel’s is totally casual, a place you can drop in with pals for an unfussy dinner, cheap beer and a fine Sazerac.
Peel’s, 325 Bowery at E. 2nd St. No website as far as I can tell.
photo from vandaagnyc.com
For the first time, I thought I could live in a restaurant. Vandaag is light and airy, clean lines, modern, the loudest details being subtle textures like wood slab ceilings and tiled walls. There are big windows looking out onto the East Village Streets. An old Lynyrd Skynyrd song plays. The servers wear cute printed aprons and converse. The restaurant has a clear focus: food from Denmark and Holland, genever (gin) and aqvavit. Not a bad focus.
I know nothing about Dutch food, but I do know I was in the mood for simple comfort food, whatever that may be. We tried a romaine salad with crumbled sausage, bitterballen (braised oxtail croquettes), and gravlax. They sent out an amuse bouche of hen pate, which was lovely, but made me feel like I was due to have a fancier meal than expected (or desired). The food is super creative and thoughtful. The owners come from Mayahuel, an expertly conceived tequila restaurant, so it’s no surprise they left no Dutch detail untouched. It’s a niche restaurant in fine form.
Will I return? Yes. I really want to try their Ham Burger, with gouda and charred onion, and maybe one of their beer cocktails. I might come with a group, as they have nice big booths to squeeze into, and the airiness of the restaurant is such a refreshing change to the usual table-upon-table setup of most New York restaurants. You almost feel like you left the city altogether.
Vandaag, 2nd Ave bet 6th and 7th Sts, East Village. For more information visit vandaagnyc.com
NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY, DECE MBER 09:
Tipsy Parson- from the people behind the much-loved Little Giant in the LES. They went west! I’m hoping their food is as honest and local and good.
The Breslin- The Spotted Pig people opened this cool joint in the Ace Hotel. The Ace Hotel is this industrial, American masculine spot (the kind of spot an hunter/carpenter/poet from Maine… or Montana… might open). I love it. And it figures perfectly that they would call the Pig people to do a place that features all kinds of weird meat that will probably freak me out.
Maialino- Danny Meyer (Unions Square Cafe, Tabla, 11 Madison) has opened a new restaurant. OMFG, YAY! This time, it’s a no holds barred Roman-style trattoria in Gramercy Park. I imagine it’s going to be perfect.
And if you’re wanting to know of some good spots that I’ve been to recently that I love:
Aldea- inspired Spanish food with local flavor. Or local food with Spanish flavor? Either way, it’s really awesome, and the whole spot is just super nice. I love it for a date or to bring foodies who don’t want a scene.
Tomoe Sushi- it’s kind of a hole in the wall, but I love their super fresh sushi. I’ve been getting it to go because the lines are too long though.
Sorella- in the LES- small plate rustic Italian. It’s wonderful. Good spot for a date because the wine bar is super dark and intimate, you share the food… you get the picture.