An American comfort food restaurant really isn’t anything new lately. It seems to me that I’ve been reading about more causal restaurants each day. There are just so many. I’ve read lots of food writing that has stated that more Americans are looking for simpler well made meals in more casual restaurants rather than the high end fussy places that dominated the American restaurant scene at one point.
Regardless of the prevalence of this trend, I was very happy to get an invitation from my college friend, Roo Mi (remember her birthday?), to join her and a group of fellow food nerd friends at the newly opened Peels Restaurant. Peels is actually an offshoot of another restaurant, Freeman’s, which I have to admit that I don’t know much about. Peels opened in a part of the northern portion of the Lower East Side of Manhattan that’s gotten its share of big restaurant openings already this year (check DBGB from Daniel Boulud). Needless to say there were lots of “I’m very cool, and you should know this” types there. Yeah, whateva…
We were there for the food. Bring it! By the way, there are going to be lots of food shots. There were nine of us! Let me also mention our very cool waiter (I’m so sorry to forget his name), who after hearing our audible reactions during his descriptions of the specials, must have had a good chuckle. He fielded every question about the preparation of the dishes and his suggestions were really spot on. I think we must have made his evening fun. I’m glad when I can do that for the waitstaff, but he definitely was a knowledgeable and affable waiter.
Some crispy wafer-like things came out first as nibbles. I wish I could tell you what this is. There were some marinated veggies in the white bowl with a tart vinegar taste.
Since I was going out to meet another group of friends afterwards, I laid off the alcohol, but looking at some of the cocktails made me want to come back just for a few drinks.
Peel’s Punch, I’m coming back for you!
The roll call of appetizers:
Shrimp & Grits
I just had a smidgen of this and many of the appetizers (I was saving room for dessert), but savory and creamy with the right amount of salt is how I’d describe the grits. Although you might not want to trust what I say as someone who doesn’t usually like grits, but this totally made me rethink my usually anti-grits stance.
Think along the lines of Italian gnocchi. The dumplings were placed in a soothing broth with vegetables that really could have been made into an excellent soup by itself.
No typo there. You did in fact read corn dog. I usually am freaked out by the idea of a corn dog (a sausage of some dubious origin surrounded by thick batter and fried on a stick. Say what?!), but this did taste very fresh. The golden spicy mustard gave it the perfect kick. Again, maybe I will change my tune about corn dogs, but only if I can eat these every time.
I was saving room for the mains and desserts, and I’m glad I did. For such a large group, many of us had the same dishes. Maybe food nerds are unoriginal, or perhaps we’d been taken in by what we’d read about Peels beforehand?
Make sure that if you do get Peels’ fried chicken to dip its super crispy skin into the accompanying side of honey and spices. Maaahhhhvlous, dahling! I’m struggling to find ways to talk about the chicken other than it was spot on crunchy meat skin. The chicken’s flesh itself was well-seasoned and not dry.
Fall off the bone good with a hint of Mexican mole. I even ate the crispy onions. Peels must have been good because it had me eating things that I do not normally (and I eat a whole lotta stuff). On the same plate were lovely beans and bits of spinach. It made me feel less self-conscious about eating a hunk of meat.
Uhhh..that’s a steak! More than one person ate this.
Fall Vegetable Gratinee
Hen of the woods mushrooms, cauliflower, squash, goat cheese & herbs
Finally, the most important course: Dessert!!!
I think this was bread pudding? (Oops! What a bad blogger I am for not catching this!)
Butterscotch Pot de Creme
I liked that Peels’s desserts weren’t too sweet. Anything that had cream was smooth and buttery. Unlike most things with butterscotch that try to hit you over the head with the butterscotch taste, this pot de creme was subtle and beckoned you to keep taking a spoonful here and there. Yet I couldn’t ’cause I was too busy eating MY dessert….
My dessert: the Tres Leches Cake
Have I told you that I love baked goods? People can keep their candy and perhaps also their ice cream (okay, I like ice cream too), but give me baked goods like this cake. I love that it was drowning is a non-cloying dulce de leche-esque flavored milk bath with freshly whipped cream. Mmm…
Not pictured: The very good sundae.
I need to go back to Peels for the biscuits and gravy that I didn’t get a chance to taste (only served at lunch and brunch).
In all a fun meal with some warm, friendly company. I’ve been enjoying my outings with Roo Mi’s friends so much that I think I need to get my own merry band of food nerds for myself.
Happy Weekend, everyone!
325 Bowery (@ 2nd Street)
New York, NY