Keeping up with the Smith's
When a new restaurant graces Gotham, reviewing peeps ferverously scurry to scribe an opening-week eulogy or derision. I’ve, however, discovered it best to visit places that have been around long enough to work out their kinks and find their respective niche. Give ’em a hot second! Not so long that they turn status = institution, but inquiring minds want to know how places are faring (excuse pun) a year or two post-hype.
Smith’s is such. Unlike it’s ubiquitous city namesakes, this Smith’s was widely anticipated for connections to Soho gem Raoul’s (Cindy Smith) and eternal date spot The Mermaid Inn (Danny Abrams). Smith’s was destined for reviewer-rushed praise, but only pulled mediocre reviews early on. After all, famous pairings do not ensure auto-success (remember Pace?), so I thought I’d try it again.
Upon entering with my handsome repeat dinner date, I was greeted by a sprightly and coy host who informed me that I was only 16 minutes late as opposed to the predicted 30. He then suggested we have a drink at the bar, which is tucked cozily in the back past the black booth banquets, while we wait for our table. But when we rounded the corner, I knew that was our room. Several tall tables line the eastern side, and 8-10 seat comfortably around the bar. A darling Drew Barrymoresque bartender greeted us warmly and proceeded to make a most delicious dirty martini. When the host returned, he smiled upon seeing we were comfortably seated at the bar. Did he elegantly bow, gracefully wishing us bon appetite, and leaving us to our romantic banter? Probably not, but that’s how I remember.
We ate: Salt Cod Fitters ($12), Wild Arugula Salad ($10) with goat cheese, parsnip and apple crisps to start. We drank: More Grey Goose dirty martinis. My date would’ve eaten another cod starter for our main course, but a girl has to watch her fritters. So we ate: Pan Seared Diver Scallops ($24) with almond puree, acorn squash, fennel and dill and Broccoli Rabe ($8). But I also wanted the Red Wine Braised Shortribs because they came with creamy polenta and the Tagliatelle with kale and walnut pesto. See menu. Every single thing we ate was scrumptious coupled by the fact that our bartender delicately balanced our needed for both privacy and social interaction. We were much more satisfied than our previous night’s dinner at Freeman’s. (Note: For Freeman’s, Brunch Only.)
For the second night that week, we were the sole remaining patrons in the restaurant. But at Smith’s they did not flicker the lights at us like they did at Freeman’s. (“Um, school night young lady.” Thanks dad.) Rather, they chatted vividly, inquiring into our lives and thoughts until we whisked ourselves away and dreamily headed home thinking what a lovely place Smith’s continues to be.
Smith’s 79 Macdougal Street between Houston and Bleeker 212-260-0100
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