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“Minetta Tavern”

  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out New American West Village Moderate Great

There’s something in the air at Keith McNally’s restaurants. It’s something other than the heavenly salty haze that lingers as plates topped with hills of perfectly golden frites are carried over head through the dining room. It goes beyond the buzzing energy of the crowds—the expected combo platter of glamorous editors, bed-headed writers, bohemian beauties and assorted skinny-jeaned hipsters assembled in a convivial melee three deep at the bar. And it’s more than the burnished, detail-driven, been-here-forever décor—a carefully curated combination of distressed elements: subway tiling, black wainscoting, button-tufted red leather banquettes and black and white tiled flooring.

What I am speaking of is perhaps a combination of all of these elements: food, scene and décor, plus a last piece, a kind of McNally umami factor—a lusty, effortless cool that pervades every restaurant McNally has put his name on from the days of Pravda and Balthazar to the more recent Morandi and now, his latest restaurant, the lovingly restored Minetta Tavern.

The back story, if you haven’t already heard it, goes like this: when the Tavern lost its lease last May due to an obscene rent increase (rumors put it at $50,000 a year), McNally swept in to rescue and restore it to its former grandeur. Honoring its history—it served as a favorite watering hole for literary luminaries like e.e. cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald—and its distinctive interiors, McNally bought not only the restaurant, but also everything inside of it. So you’ll still find painted murals of Village sights and scenes on the walls, along with the storied photo gallery, and the wooden bar, which dates back to opening day in 1937. It’s a meticulously re-created New York tavern that feels steeped in history, untarnished by the present.

While the food is good (more on that shortly), the overall effect of the “McNally Umami Factor” is this: you’ll spend the first ten to twenty minutes (or potentially your entire meal) twisting and turning your head to see who has walked in the door. Craig and I barely noticed our own dinner companions (Kiri and Steven) until it was time to get down to ordering. We were too busy checking out the room and the people filling it. In the corner booth was Matthew Broderick, up in the bar room was Alfred Portale. And ou ... [more, click below]

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Other restaurants in West Village :
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