When I reviewed Savoy two years ago, I noted my amazement that chef–owner Peter Hoffman had remained satisfied with just one restaurant after sixteen years in business. These days, any reasonably successful chef feels the itch to open a second place, and soon after, a third.
Sure enough, a year later came Back Forty, a more casual restaurant than Savoy, but in the same haute barnyard style that Hoffman made popular before everyone was doing it. Actually, the décor feels a bit like a gussied-up barnyard, with hefty wooden tables and farm implements hanging from the walls.
In the Times, Peter Meehan reviewed Back Forty a year ago today, finding it inconsistent but promising. Reviews turn up regularly on the food boards, suggesting that this restaurant is pulling in much more than just the East Village neighborhood crowd. Then again, these days practically any good East Village restaurant can consider itself a destination.
The menu is extremely inexpensive for a restaurant of this quality, with starters $4–10, entrées $10–20, sides $3–7, and desserts $7–8. Most of the wines are under $50 per bottle, with ample choices below $40. A quartino of the house red was just $5.
I had come for the burger, which I knew would be quite filling, so I ordered just a small appetizer for my son and me to share, the Pork Jowl Nuggets ($4; below left). Had the server told us that it came with just three extremely small “nuggets,” we would have ordered a second starter. They were extremely good, with just a touch of spice supplied by Jalapeño jam, but after we divided the middle nugget in two, all we had were two tiny bites apiece.
We debated whether to order something else, but we figured our burgers would be quickly on the way. Alas, we waited quite a while for them. At another table that was seated after us, their burgers came before ours did. (The burger seems to be a popular choice; we saw quite a few of them come out.)
This being an haute barnyard, Back Forty doesn’t serve merely a burger, but a Grass Fed Burger (above right). It’s $11 on its own, $2 for cheese (only Farmhouse Cheddar is offered), another $2 for Heritage Bacon (which we skipped), and another $2 for Rosemary Fries on the side.
Meehan at the Times felt that the grass-fed beef “lacks something,” but we thought it was pretty damned good, with a delicious buttery softness, although a tad too small for the bun. The fries were terrific, too. My son, who isn’t easily pleased, thought this was a restaurant he’d happily come back to.
Avenue B is a considerable distance out of the way, so I probably won’t be returning quite as often as Back Forty deserves. There’s a whole pig roast on Monday evening, and I’d certainly love to come back for that.
Back Forty (190 Avenue B at 12th Street, East Village)