What exactly is Distilled?
On the website, Distilled claims to be “a New American Public House serving redefined regional dishes and cocktails within an approachable communal setting.”
That’s a sufficiently elastic description to allow practically anything.
I’ve visited twice for cocktails ($10–15, most $14), which are very good. Try the “Age & Nobility.” The bartender sets the glass on fire with green chartreuse, then adds barrel aged Old Forrester, Campari, and Mead. That was the most memorable of the several cocktails I tried, but there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. Mead (an alcoholic mixture of honey and water) is a speciality too.
Wines are disappointing. On the one-page bottle list, there were just two reds under $50, and they were out of one of them. This is at a restaurant where all but two dishes are $23 or less.
The chef and partner here is Shane Lyons, formerly a child actor best known for Nickelodeon’s All That. As his TV career wound down, he went to culinary school, graduating from the CIA at 18. His prior New York gigs included Café Boulud, Craftbar, and Momofuku Noodle Bar, before he landed at Distilled, in the former Centrico space in Tribeca.
The one-page menu is firmly in the comfort food idiom, with share plates ($5–17), salads ($9–13), meat and fish dishes ($13–32; most $17–23) and vegetables ($8–16).
At either the bar or the tables, the chef sends out popcorn (below left) in lieu of bread service. Studded with brewer’s yeast, garlic and cumin, it’s a wonderful snack.
Kale and Carrot salad ($13; above right) was served in a cold bowl, which made us wonder if it had been prepped hours before, and stored in the fridge. For all that, it wasn’t bad.
Liver Pâté ($12; above left) is served with whipped honey, red wine-pickled shallots, and chicken skin crackers, which shatter at the slightest attempt to spread anything on them. Like the salad, the pâté had been in the fridge a while: it was cold, and not very cooperative. On these crackers it was hopeless. With the right partners, either the crackers or the pâté might have worked; together, they did not.
Wendy had the Steamed Mussels ($18; above right) with fingerling potatoes, bacon broth, and herbs. I didn’t try it, but she described the mussel-bacon pairing as both “weird” and “interesting”.
There are two burgers on the menu. I ordered the more unusual of the two, the Bird Burger ($18; above left), a mix of turkey, duck, and chicken. It was fine, but on the dry side. Next time I’d try beef. It’s too bad the tator tots aren’t offered as a side dish on their own: they’re excellent.
We closed with Cheese & Crackers ($9; above right): unlike the pâté, the soft consistency of the cheese tangoed well with the thin crackers.
The service is a bit discombobulated, from a single attention-deficit host who has to both greet guests and seat parties, to servers who don’t notice that your water glasses need re-filling. Bartenders are very good, but it can be difficult to get their attention.
This casual mix of comfort food and great cocktails has been a hit so far. The bustling space was full on a Wednesday evening. I wish the food were more consistent, but if I were in the area I’d certainly drop in again for the cocktails.
Distilled (211 West Broadway at Franklin Street, Tribeca)
Food: American comfort food
Service: Friendly, but not always attentive
Ambiance: A large, post-industrial pub space