Note: Peels closed in January 2014. As Taavo Somer botches project after project, the success of Freemans (which is still open) begins to look more and more like a fluke. Later in 2014, Andrew Carmellini and his team expect to open an Italian restaurant in the space called Bar Primi.
I wouldn’t have gone near Peels either if I hadn’t walked by at 1:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, one of the few times you can walk in and not wait forever.
The vaguely Southern cuisine has received mixed reviews so far. Sam Sifton gave it one star, though he was more interested in guessing (and guessing wrong) which side of the tracks the clientele was from.
The two-story space is a magnet for sunlight. At off-hours, it’s a cheery main-street diner that you wish all neighborhoods would have. In the evenings, it fills up quickly with a party crowd, though the bartender allowed I might get seated promptly on a Monday a Tuesday evening, provided I arrived early enough.
The kitchen butchers its own steaks (a grass-fed ribeye steak is $45). The off-cuts and trimmed fat go into their burger blend. The hand-formed patty is thick and rich, a good foil to the twice-fried potatoes. At $13, it’s less than most of the city’s high-end burgers these days, and arguably better.
The staff were friendly; helpful; welcoming. They’re probably like that all the time, but on a Thursday evening there’s not much they can do for you, and forget about Saturday. Or even brunch. A late lunch is just fine.