We’ve done freakshakes at Black Tap, we’ve done snow cones in Central Park, we’ve done pancakes at Pershing Square, we’ve done cupcakes from the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, we’ve done Chicken Parm in Hell’s Kitchen and we’ve taken more Birthday Cake Oreos back to the UK than customs would care to know about. Basically, we’ve done nearly everything on the New York tourist tick-list so during our sojourn to the Big Apple last month, it was time to get a taste of something a little more off the beaten track.
A kitsch all-American breakfast experience in Midtown West at Times Square’s Stardust Diner one morning left us even more hungry to see what the city’s bohemian East Village had to offer… A seat at the chef’s table at Root & Bone, that’s what.
This hidden culinary gem is nestled along an eclectic street of bars, bodegas, eateries and independent stores in the easterly quarter of New York fondly known as Alphabet City. The East Village is an enclave of trendy subculture with Alphabet City closely neighboured by Tompkins Square Park – the muse of numerous rock songs – and a whole plethora of street art, skate parks, community gardens and a bustling population of students and aspiring artists.
So with Google Maps at hand and a brother who has made the city his home for the past five years our date for the evening, we embarked on the 20-minute Uber ride from the polished elegance of our hotel in Chelsea to New York’s dynamic anti-establishment district. Google Maps did tell us that it would only be about a 50 minute walk which flashes by at the speed of light when there is so much going on around you but with a table reservation pending, we had to act fast.
A few tweaks in our schedule for the day meant we had to swap our earlier booking for three seats at the chef’s table but what a spectacular turn of serendipity that turned out to be. We mounted our bar stools in the rustic, barn-like venue and quickly set about ordering a couple of beers and some Fresh Lemonade over the rabble of activity that was filling out the intimate space at 8pm on a Friday night. This is the kind of place where the waitstaff, in their brushed cotton shirts and desert boots, blend into the background aesthetic seamlessly and mingle amongst the beatnik clientele undetected.
From the concise but diverse Supper menu (Brunch and Lunch look great too) we went for the half Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken ($19) with the optional added Buckwheat Waffles (+ $7) , two orders of the Braised Short Rib ‘Meatloaf’ ($26) and a side of Mac & Cheese ($9) to share between us. The Root & Bone Mac & Cheese was what made me fall in lust with this place in the first place so it would have been rude not to indulge a little. It was everything I had dreamed of for weeks and more. The ‘big pasta’ was a nice change from your typical macaroni pasta, the béchamel sauce was lavishly seasoned and the crunchy cheese and herb crust added a delicious dimension of texture.
Whilst we were slightly divided on the oozing mass of molten pasta (as I was sitting amongst non-mac ‘n’ cheese believers – yes, they do exist) glowing reviews of both the chicken & waffles and braised rib meatloaf were unanimous. The slab of tender meat packed some serious flavour and collapsed as soon as it made contact with my fork, the fondant potato beneath was rich and buttery, the brown butter vegetables added a wholesome crunch and the smooth sauce making a moat around the whole lot was deep in flavour and beautifully rich.
I did sample a taste of the tea brined fried chicken which was perfectly seasoned, moist (sorry) in the middle and dry and crunchy on the outside. The buckwheat waffles slathered with cheese and spring onions were the perfect accompaniment in an eatery which prides itself on a celebration of southern-style dining. Sadly I just didn’t have space to squeeze in the Banana Pudding that I had been eyeing up on the dessert menu but hey, there’s my excuse to head back to Root & Bone pronto boxed off.
Whiskey lovers will also be keen to know that these guys house over 80 types of whiskies, including some of the more rare and unusual finds. So whether you like your tipple in a tumbler on the rocks or laced throughout your Drunken Devilled Eggs, these guys have got your back. Oh and it’s just around the corner from the extraordinary Beauty & Essex so if you’re kicking back in the East Village for a while, try and squeeze your second meal of the day in here. Seriously, I implore you.