Daniel Boulud strikes gold with his new downtown spot DBGB Kitchen & Bar. On Bowery between Houston and 1st, DBGB takes its inspiration from the iconic CBGB club and incorporates popular bits of Daniel’s impressive restaurant empire into its design and menu.
The space is, in one word, impressive. Modeled after the en vogue gastropub, it is large, boisterous, and exciting. The front room houses a bar surrounded by mirrored walls painted with menu items and famous quotes by authors, poets, and playwrights. On a Friday night, the bar and surrounding cafe area were jammed with diners and revelers jostling for one of the 23 beers on tap. The back room is strikingly large. Taking its cues from the neighborhood’s not-so-distant past as New York’s restaurant supply district, the decor is industrial chic with floor-to-ceiling shelving units displaying the restaurant’s own tools. Copper cooking pots, glasses, mugs, and bottles of cooking wine line the walls, all stacked artfully. The middle of the room is anchored by tables for 2 and 4 and booths of dark-stained ash and espresso leather. Recessed booths for larger parties line the walls. The concrete floors complete the industrial look. Impossibly chic, DBGB nails the concept of ‘downtown cool’ in its well-appointed warehouse vibe.
The food deserves accolades after accolades. Daniel Boulud serves up refined and innovative twists on typical tavern food. Expect more of his DB Burger (made famous at the DB Bistro Moderne in Midtown), more offal than you could ever want, sausage plates inspired by different French and English regions, and a satisfying array of artisan beers.
With a party of 8 helping me out, I got to sample a wide array of the dishes available. We started out with a ‘sausage selection,’ ordering the Tunisienne (lamb and mint merguez), the Vermont (cheddar and pork), the Basque Boudin (blood and pig’s head), and the Berliner (German currywurst). Each sausage wildly different from the next, my party devoured all 4 plates. The Basque Boudin came up as the favorite with rave reviews for its tender melt-in-your-mouth consistency. We then ordered the Chop Chop Salad, the Piggie burger, the Frenchie burger, the flatiron steak, the lamb duo, and the roasted duck breast. The burgers were massive toppling masterpieces on freshly toasted buns served with perfectly crispy and seasoned fries. The steak, lamb, and duck were each cooked at the ideal temperature and served with a level of refinement fit for Boulud’s fine dining restaurant Daniel.
The dessert takes everything to a whole other level. The sundaes are masterpieces – with artisan ice cream, rich toppings, and creative flavor profiles. The cassis beer ice cream is totally funky and unique – unlike any frozen treat I’ve ever had. And the caramel cider sundae is ideal for getting into the fall spirit. My entire table stared in awe at the Baked Alaska (for two) that was delivered to the table behind us. Towering and terrifying, this confection is…perfection, at least from looks alone. Do me a favor, check out the Baked Alaska when you go – and let me know how it is.
If there were one thing wrong with my experience at DBGB, it would be the service. To his credit, our waiter was very affable and competent enough to handle a large party well. However, the hostess at the front gave me serious attitude when I politely asked how long it would be until we were seated (we did have a reservation and she gave no indication, just asking us to wait at the bar). And our drinks always seemed to take forever, indicating a possible under-staffing problem at the bar for such a large space.
All in all, DBGB thoroughly deserves the two stars awarded to it
by the New York Times. Boulud’s downtown playground gets high points on both food and atmosphere, offering up a perfect location for dinner parties, birthday parties, swanky first dates, and booze-fueled catch-ups with old friends. With energy and inspiration, Boulud gives us a truly excellent gourmet option that kisses the borders of the nightlife hubs of the Lower East Side and East Village.