Minetta Tavern in the Greenwich Village

Keith McNally has done it again: the successful restaurateur of Balthazar, Pastis, Schillers and Morandi has proven to possess the ultimate MT (Midas Touch) with Minetta Tavern, his latest venue.

Minetta Tavern, which he renovated and opened this Spring after with chef-partners Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr is the trendiest bistro in town. Aware that getting a last minute reservation is impossible, my friend and I tried the next best option: pull an early bird to at least get a couple of stools at the counter. We believed 6 pm would be “early” enough. Our bar-dining plan was looking promising from the outside of the premises: no one in sight at that sunny evening on the quiet corner in the heart of Greenwich Village where MacDougal meets Minetta Street.
Little did we know. We pass the antique looking door and enter another dimension (and time zone!) It’s super dark (feels like 10 pm), all tables are taken, people are standing around the entrance and bar area, because, yes, all bar chairs are already occupied with other early diners. I can’t contain my sigh and ask the hostess if New Yorkers started a new habit of having dinner before sunset. “You should see the line we had outside at 5:30.” And that was on a Wednesday. Be forewarned. Or call two weeks in advance, at least while the place is still so novelty. And good.

Renowned food critic Frank Bruni called it “the best steakhouse in the city.” I tried the burger with amazing fries and my friend had a steakhouse-worthy bone-in New York Strip. (My burger was better). The ambiance has the McNally-label all over: out of time ambiance, cramped, noisy, good vibe, all types of people (including some true early-birds from a more mature generation), and friendly service. We connected to Francois, the ex-Balthazar bartender, and thanks to this strategic liaison we managed to fulfill our plan of dining at the counter, eventually.
Minetta Tavern has been around for 72 years, but this historic pub-locale never attracted so many crowds looking for a culinary experience. What is McNally’s secret recipe? A bartender at Pastis once told me he believed it was the dim lighting and cozy atmosphere. “It makes people feel comfortable.”
Comfy indeed. We had a true tavern-esque experience, and it felt extremely surreal to walk out, - steak-filled bellies and a little tipsy-, and be greeted by a mighty shining sun...

113 MacDougal St
Btwn Bleecker & W 3rd St
(212) 475-3850