I’ve written before about the shortage of good pre-concert dining in the Lincoln Center area. After Picholine and Bar Boulud, your options—at least the good ones—tail off considerably. This remains a mystery to me. There are 10,000 seats across the street, their occupants generally have sophisticated tastes, and they have to eat. Why aren’t there better restaurants catering to them?
Lately, Ed’s Chowder House has been my go-to pre-concert restaurant. Sam Sifton gave it zero stars in the Times, and that’s not right. Ed’s isn’t better than Picholine or Bar Boulud, but it’s good, and you can always walk in and get seated at the bar.
I wrote my last review after a visit on opening night. I won’t repeat the long history of the space: briefly, it’s a Jeffrey Chodorow restaurant, built (like most of his places) where a previous Chodorow restaurant failed. It looks like this one will last. Periodic checks on OpenTable suggest that it’s at least doing a solid pre-concert business.
The eponymous Ed Brown’s main restaurant, eighty one, has closed, so he is probably spending more time here (he is listed as the “Chef Collaborator”). That is a good thing: the man knows fish.
Blissfully, this doesn’t feel like a Chodorow place. The reasonably-priced menu doesn’t ramble, and for the most part it’s free of gimmicks. The servers don’t upsell. The host even seated me early, even though my party was incomplete, which has never happened before at a Chodorow restaurant.
I do think they should merge their bar and dining room menus. They aren’t all that much different, and as they’ll allow you to order from either one, in either room, there is little point in having two.
The bread service (above) remains terrific, as it has been each time I’ve visited.
The food I’ve tried is simple and well done, and doesn’t require much elaboration: a clam chowder ($11.50; above left), an asparagus salad ($14.00; above right). On another occasion, I had the lobster roll, which at $26 is a bit on the expensive side, but very good indeed.
The mains are either “composed” and “simple,” a slightly irritating trend that I cannot blame on Jeffrey Chodorow. But “simple” sea bass ($26; above left) was excellent, and so was a Pat La Freida burger ($17; above right) from the bar menu. The fries, however, had been seasoned with something awful, perhaps truffle oil, that basically ruined them.
The food was good, the service was good, the room is comfortable and unhurried, and they got us to our opera on time. What more could you ask from a Lincoln Center restaurant?
Ed’s Chowder House (44 W. 63rd St. btwn. Broadway & Columbus, Lincoln Center)