Note: Click here for a review of the steak at Minetta Tavern.
I don’t quite get the breathless excitement over Keith McNally’s latest restaurant, the reborn Minetta Tavern. Then again, I have never understood the excitement for Keith McNally’s other restaurants—most of them formulaic French brasseries. He’s got a good grasp on the format, but does this justify the long lines and impossible-to-get reservations?
Even Bloomberg’s Ryan Sutton had to admit defeat, conceding he hired a concierge service to get him into Minetta at a decent hour, after multiple failed attempts to get in on his own. Restaurant Girl didn’t let on how she got in, but she does not dine anonymously, which perhaps is all we need to know.
Last night, I decided to take a flyer on the bar at Minetta Tavern, figuring it was early enough (5:45 p.m.) that I would get a seat. Sure enough, there was exactly one stool free when I arrived. The staff were friendly and accommodating—well beyond my expectations. I was expecting “attitude” at the host stand, but there was none of it.
Minetta Tavern shares its chefs with Balthazar, the McNally establishment to which it is most similar. The Minetta menu is slightly less expensive, and has slightly fewer offerings than Balthazar does. Most notably, it lacks Balth’s humungous plateaux de fruits de mer ($65 & $110 respectively), and it offers burgers, which Balth does not.
There are two burgers at Minetta Tavern, the Minetta Burger ($16) and the La Freida Black Label Burger ($26). Both Restaurant Girl and Bloomberg’s Sutton thought the lower-priced option was better. We tried the purported Black Label product at City Burger a few months ago, and weren’t impressed. Later on, La Freida explained that City Burger wasn’t getting the real Black Label blend, which was available only at Minetta. We weren’t going to fall for that trick again. It was the Minetta Burger for us.
And I fine burger it was: thick, juicy, and flavorful. Oh, and they nailed the fries, too. It’s not cheap, but this is a burger I could eat every week. I asked the kitchen to hold the caramelized onions that normally come with it. When the beef is this good, who needs onions?
There’s much more to Minetta Tavern, which I’ll be back to sample another day. Yesterday belonged to the burger.
Minetta Tavern (113 MacDougal Street between Bleecker & W. 3rd Streets, Greenwich Village)