You could easily walk right by Smith & Mills, and I nearly did. I was actually on my way to another restaurant when I saw a tiny little space I’d never noticed before. I had no reservation that evening, so I changed my plans and gave this new spot a try. I had no trouble getting seated immediately when I wandered in at around 7:00 p.m., but later on the place filled up.
The space, which was formerly a garage, and was a stable before that, is decorated with faux rusticity that is persuasive enough that you’d think the place had been there forever, but it has only been open four months. It earned two stars from Randall Lane in Time Out New York, and a strong write-up from Peeter Meehan in the Times.
I suspect most of the clientele is local. There is no sign on the outside. The couple seated next to me said that they, too, had found it only by accident. Even the name is cloaked in mystery: it’s not printed on the menu. When I asked, the server said there’s no one involved that’s actually named “Smith” or “Mills”; someone just liked those names.
The server said that the cuisine was “Rustic European.” I suppose that’s accurate. House cured salmon ($13) was quite respectable, and I very much enjoyed the seasonable vegetable soup ($6).
I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the dessert ($6): an apple cake, I believe, with cheese drizzled on top. The skimpy wine list was short on specifics, but the house sancerre ($12) and bordeaux ($14) were just fine.
There doesn’t seem to be a kitchen. All of the food is prepared behind the bar, which explains why most of the offerings (everything but the soup) are served cold. There are only seven tables, but service was almost excruciatingly slow, even in the early part of my meal, when most of the seats were still empty. It’s a pleasant space to kick back and relax, but be prepared to wait.
I don’t normally comment on bathrooms, but this one had to be mentioned. It’s built into the original freight elevator, and like the rest of the restaurant, is made to look like it has been there forever. The toilet is kept clean, but the “tilt” sink is arguably a bit gross.
Smith & Mills doesn’t break any new culinary ground, but it’s a welcome casual addition in a neighborhood where most of the dining options are expensive. Three courses and two glasses of wine set me back just $51 (before tax and tip). Credit cards aren’t accepted.
Smith & Mills (71 N. Moore Street east of Greenwich Street, TriBeCa)