Tipsy Parson is the encore restaurant from the same team that scored such a big hit at Little Giant on the Lower East Side. It hews to the earlier restaurant’s comfort-food roots, but a bigger kitchen allows a more substantial menu. Where the Little Giant is limited to just half-a-dozen apps and just as many entrées, the menu here offers a wider variety of starters, salads, oysters, charcuterie, entrées, side dishes, and bar snacks.
The space is nearly double the size of the Little Giant, which made me worry whether the owners would be able to scale up to the challenge. Those worries are borne out by the inconsistency of the food, but if they can clear that up, this is a cuisine we would happily eat any day of the week.
I arrived early and ordered a snack—figs stuffed with chestnuts and topped with bacon (left). This is perfect bar food, but for some reason the chef served three of them, an odd choice for a dish that will be frequently shared. In all fairness, many chefs have made that error, as if there is a mystical perfection in the number three, no matter what the customer may require.
Cocktails were not such a happy experiment: both of those that I tried were too sweet, including a champagne sidecar that seemed to be nearly all champagne.
The industry has changed since Little Giant opened in 2004. Back then, places were showing how cool they were by not taking reservations. Some restauranteurs would even have the chutzpah to claim this was what the customer wanted: it meant one could always drop in and be sure of getting a table, provided one was willing to wait long enough. In reality, this was pure selfishness on the owners’ part: it meant they didn’t have to bother keeping track of who was coming, and they didn’t have to deal with no-shows.
A few hugely successful places have clung to this model (Boqueria, Momofuku, Spotted Pig), mainly because they could, but many of these no-resy places wound up taking them later on, including Little Giant. Tipsy Parson was on OpenTable from Day One. They could no doubt survived a while on walk-in business alone, given the inevitable curiosity that attends any new restaurant. Instead, they sensibly decided to court reliable repeat business instead, and recognized that many diners want the assurance that they can eat at a time certain.
I know we wouldn’t have been there without a reservation. The restaurant kindly accommodated us, even though my friend was a half-hour late.
We suspected that the entrées would be large, so we shared a salad of warm spinach, which was wonderful, as were the house-made Parker House rolls.
Both entrées suffered from execution failures. A pork shank was enormous, but over-cooked. Duck was perfectly cooked, but the portion was (by comparison) on the small side, and the vegetables accompanying it were too bitter.
A side of Brussels sprouts was terrific. Macaroni & cheese was just fine, but didn’t erase the memory of the even better version of it served at Little Giant.
Early on, the service seemed just a bit anxious, as if they were eager to get our table back. Later on, the server disappeared for long intervals. Just about all of the restaurant’s 75 seats were full when we left, and it appeared there weren’t quite enough staff to handle the rush.
The décor tries to capture the homespun rustic chic that so many restaurants aim for these days, but at least they got it right. The noise level wasn’t bad, but as we were seated at a corner table with no one nearby, that might have been atypical.
Tipsy Parson doesn’t quite have its act together yet, but the menu is extremely appealing, and when the kinks are ironed out this should be a fun place to visit.
Tipsy Parson (156 Ninth Avenue between 19th & 20th Streets, Chelsea)