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The Smith

The Smith never made it to the top of my must-visit list when it opened in 2007. The restaurant, as Frank Bruni noted, “didn’t make all that loud and persuasive a case for attention among all the other clamorers.”

But on Friday evening, when I was looking for a restaurant not too far from east Chelsea, where the food would suit my 15-year-old son, the Smith fit the bill perfectly. Better yet, the Smith is on OpenTable. These days, I hardly go anywhere unfamiliar if it is not on OpenTable. It’s simply not worth a trip, only to face an unknown wait.

The Smith actually didn’t have to be on OpenTable. On a Friday evening, it was packed—mostly with NYU students, or so it seemed to us. We appreciated that our reservation was honored fifteen minutes late, never a sure thing at a place so crowded. Fortunately, we got a corner table, which meant that the unsufferable din assaulted us on two sides, instead of all four. The Smith is as loud a restaurant as we’ve visited in quite some time.

The menu offers American brasserie food at recession-resistant prices, with starters and snacks, $10 or less, sandwiches, pastas and entrées $19 or less (except steaks, which are in the $20s). The by-the-glass wine list (most $10 or less) is longer than it has to be, and selections are also offered by the caraffe or the “big caraffe.” House cocktails are mostly $11, beers $6–8.

The kitchen did a respectable job with Caesar Salad ($9; above left). The pork chop ($19; above right) was decent, but the accompanying “sweet potato hash” (apples, bacon, cider glaze) tasted like it had simmered too long.

My son loved the lobster roll ($23; above left)—a special served only on Fridays. The burger ($15; above right) was respectable, but not as good as the one we had at Choptank a few weeks ago, at the same price.

I wouldn’t mind returning to the Smith if the dining room weren’t so loud. As it is…well, this is the East Village, an area not exactly starved for restaurants. I’d drop in again (outside of prime time) if I were, oh, within a three-block radius.

The Smith (55 Third Avenue south of 11th Street, East Village)

Rating: ★

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