Entries in Shane McBride (2)



Note: Halfsteak, along with is parent restaurant Craftsteak, closed in late 2009. A new restaurant from the same team, Colicchio & Sons, replaced it in early 2010.


Not a week goes by without further retrenchment in the restaurant industry. Even Tom Colicchio’s sainted Craft empire is hunkering down for a long recession. This week, the front room at Craftsteak rebranded itself “Halfsteak,” where every dish is under $15.

I’ve visited Craftsteak three times (1, 2, 3), but I’ve been wholly satisfied only once. To be fair, the first two visits were early on, before Colicchio fired the executive chef and bought new broiling equipment. But I continue to read mixed reports, suggesting a visit to Craftsteak is very much a crapshoot. It’s a tough value proposition for a place where almost all steaks are above $50.

I’m not visiting many steakhouses these days. Even if I was, I’d have to think twice before returning to Crafsteak. But the sub-$15 menu at Halfsteak has my attention. This is a place where one doesn’t mind just “dropping in.”

Halfsteak occupies the casual front dining room at Craftsteak. Everything is priced at odd multiples of a half-dollar. Snacks are $6½, salads $7½, small plates $9½, sandwiches $11½, “one-pots” $13½, desserts $4½, and the namesake halfsteak with fries is $14½. [Click on the menu for a larger image.]

The concept extends to cocktails ($7½), half pints of beer ($3½) and wines by the glass ($10½). Even the notoriously exorbitant wine list has been dialed down. There are twenty bottles on offer, all $55 or less (most under $50). The beers are thoughtful choices from small, artisanal producers; not Budweiser and Schlitz.

Craftsteak’s chef de cuisine is Shane McBride. As he did at his short-lived midtown chophouse 7Square, he isn’t afraid to challenge his audience. I am quite sure that fried tripe is not on this menu because there was overwhelming demand for it. Likewise brisket with sauerkraut or a duck confit omelet.

I wasn’t too hungry, so I ordered just two snacks ($6.50 ea.), the Smoked Chicken Wings with White BBQ Sauce (above left) and the Lamb Spare Ribs with Cucumber Raita (above right). The wings were wonderful, perfectly seasoned and slightly spicy. Where on earth did that white barbecue sauce come from? The lamb ribs were slightly dry and not quite warm enough. Total bill with two half-pints of beer: $20.

The restaurant’s two-star service model hasn’t changed. I almost laughed when I asked for a wet-nap to wash my hands after all that finger food, and they brought out a hot towel. Both the main dining room and the front room were doing a respectable business, but neither was full between 7 and 8pm on a Thursday evening.

The current recession has taken its sad toll on many restaurants, but among those that remain open there are many good deals to be had. Halfsteak is one of the best around.

“Halfsteak” (85 Tenth Avenue at 15th Street, Far West Chelsea)




Note: 7Square closed abruptly in February 2007 after it ran out of money. It just goes to show that having hotel guests and theater patrons as a captive audience is no guarantee of success.

Hardly a month goes by without a new steakhouse opening in Manhattan. The new restaurant 7Square seems to be yet another of these, with its billing as “A Modern Chophouse.” But of eleven entrees, the only one straight out of the steakhouse playbook is a ribeye. Other menu items that cater to carnivores aren’t steak per se, and would be at home just about anywhere: rack of lamb, pork chop, and short ribs, for instance.

The chef, Shane McBride, trained at four-star Lespinasse, and much of the menu at 7Square suggests that he isn’t content to replicate the steakhouse format by rote. A Dirty Rice Risotto ($12) is laced with duck confit, smoked duck ham, and andouille sausage. In pleasure given per dollar spent, it beats most risottos in town. Other appetizers caught my eye (though I didn’t try them). “HAM2” ($14), a “unique tasting of artisanal hams,” sure looked interesting. I’ve also heard good things about the steak tartare ($12). At these prices, it couldn’t hurt to experiment.

Main courses are $15–34, with most in the twenties. In the latest style, the menu tells you the biography of the animal you are eating. The pork chop comes from Niman Ranch, the veal chop from Upstate New York, the chicken breast from an Amish farm, the lamb rack from Colorado, and the ribeye from Wolfe’s Neck Farm. I tried the ribeye ($32) after Adam Platt raved about it. Served off the bone, it’s a slightly smaller cut than most steakhouses serve, which means you can actually finish it. The marbling and exterior char were first-rate—indeed, better than I was served at Porter House.

Sometimes the best bread service comes in the most unexpected places. 7Square serves warm rosemary cornbread that’s out-of-this-world. It would be worth stopping in for an appetizer, just to have more of that cornbread.

Located in the Time Hotel, 7Square’s decor is attractive and comfortable, but appropriately informal for the neighborhood. The service is a bit careless at times, but not annoyingly so. The food is actually good enough that you don’t need the excuse of seeing a show to dine there. This is one of the few restaurants in the Theater District that you can take seriously.

7 Square (224 W 49th Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway, Theater District)

Food: *½
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: *