Gravy is a bright, spacious restaurant that opened in a prominent Flatiron District storefront in late April. The cuisine is billed as “New Southern,” a genre for which I have no points of comparison. Indeed, the website claims that there are no other examples of it in New York City.
Despite a featured FloFab post in The Times before it opened (a boon few restaurants get), Gravy has received no professional reviews to date. A restaurant that well publicized usually gets at least a look from the main critics. I’m guessing they weren’t impressed, and decided not to invest in additional visits.
The chef is Michael Vignola, who came from Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse, clearly not the best endorsement. But Gravy is actually pretty good. Perhaps it has worked out the early kinks. At least the menu is interesting, and not a clone of anything else that has opened lately.
Prices are moderate for the neighborhood, with appetizers $10–17 and entrées $21–31. The ubiquitous “table shares” are $10–15, side dishes $8–9.
House-made charcuterie ($15; above left), with pickled vegetables and home-made brown butter mustard, is an excellent way to start. Two can easily share the dish. The bread was warm and crisp, with each slice individually toasted, but it is a lot of bread for one evening. (Earlier, there were warm rolls with soft butter: bread is clearly a strength of this kitchen.)
The Sullivan’s Island Bog ($26; above right), with shrimp, crawfish, mussels, squid, scallop, andouille, charred tomatoes, and Carolina red rice, is a good modern take on a Jambalaya.
Spice Rubbed Venison ($28; above left) was slightly tough, but still plenty flavorful, and I liked the contrast of roasted baby beets and bing cherries. Grits are offered three ways—honey, cheesy, or porky ($8 for one; $16 for all three). The porky grits (above right) had very little pork that we could detect, and tasted like not-very-good oatmeal.
The wine list is mainly American, as it should be, and if not overly long, is well suited to the cuisine. I don’t recall my original selection, but the wine director advised against it, and offered me an off-list Conway Family 2008 Deep See Red, an unobjectionable Shiraz blend, at the same price. It sells retail for $28, so the restaurant’s $46 (a 64 percent markup) is fair.
The dining room was around three-fourths full, and the kitchen was quite slow. At one point, I wondered if they’d run out of deer, and had sent a posse into the Catskills to shoot another. Even a cocktail took so long to make that, by the time it arrived I no longer wanted it. (They were quite willing to take it off the bill, without my even asking.)
The space is modern-looking and attractive. There are no table cloths, but the tables are more generously spaced than they have to be. Ambient noise was energetic, but not oppressive.
It seems to me a pity that when someone opens a restaurant that actually attempts to do something new, it gets so little critical attention. Fortunately, Gravy seems to be doing fine without the critics’ help, but it deserves more notice.
Gravy (32 E. 21st Street between Park Ave. S. and Broadway, Flatiron District)