Friday, September 09, 2011

Peels Review

Dinner early on a Saturday evening (necessitated by the need to make a movie) of a holiday weekend was the perfect time to try Peels. Though I'd read much about it being a popular, sceney spot on the Bowery, what I found was a comfortable restaurant whose white wood paneling decor makes you feel as though you've made a beautiful escape to the country.

The restaurant covers two floors and has outside seating. The lower floor has a to-go counter and the ambiance of a cafe while the upstairs feels uncharacteristically spacious for New York with roomy booths and tables that aren't too close together. The laid back service might help to encourage a sense of relaxation or it might just seem lackadaisical to New Yorkers often accustomed to being waited on more quickly. There were also several other service quirks, but I'll get to soon. But you should know — the food and the cocktails are solid.

Corn dogs aren't my thing, but my dining companions quickly devoured these Andouille corn dogs, which had just a bit of a kick to them.

The Baja salad —tomatoes, avocado, jalapeño-lime vinaigrette & Cotija cheese — combined with the chilled golden tomato soup worked as a lovely summer meal. But to like this soup, you have to like the tartness of tomatoes. A slice of bread would have been a nice complement. We asked for some, but the restaurant didn't have any, so we ordered a side of the Parker House rolls. Though they're not exactly what you want to eat with soup, they did come out warm and slightly crispy.



The fried chicken, deemed "fresh kill, free-range birds" on the menu, was delicious. The crispy coating was salty and flavorful and the meat tender. The ranch dressing was a wonderful accompaniment. The summer succotash was a messy mix of beans, corn, tomatoes and okra; don't be put off by its looks.

I had heard about the build-a-biscuit option available at brunch and had hoped to be able to order one of those biscuits to go with my chicken. But I was told they didn't serve them after 5 p.m. (it was about 20 minutes past).

The burger, made from grass-fed beef, is coated in cave-aged cheddar, topped with pickles and roasted onions and served on a small, soft bun. It's tasty, but the fries outshine the meat. They're incredibly good and when we asked for ketchup, we got a delicious gourmet version that had the texture of pureed tomato.

Though the dessert options were enticing, the pacing of our meal persuaded us not to risk the time for the sake of getting to the theater on time. We did stop downstairs at the to-go counter to grab some quick dessert, where I found a stack of biscuits available for purchase! That made the service seem to have been even more oddly rigid. (A request for a Sprite was also denied; they don't serve it.)

Because the food was worthwhile, the service was passable and I'll likely head back to try brunch at some point — when I can get myself a biscuit.

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