Elephant & Castle: As Close to Historic as the West Village Will Get
Elephant & Castle knows what it is and sticks to it. Simple and ‘old school’, this long-standing neighborhood luncheonette and family dinner spot consistently delivers good cheap food without an ounce of pretension. Nestled amongst new hot spots on Greenwich Avenue (just across from Yerba Buena Perry, down the street from Gottino and kitty-corner to Morandi), this 35-year old veteran eschews glamorous digs and fancy seasonal menus in favor of basic design and basic food.
Lodged in a quirky space just off Seventh Avenue, Elephant & Castle bends and curves, creating a restaurant with many private nooks and crannies. The inside is painted white with dark wood paneled boothes, tables worked into odd spaces, big bay windows in the back, antique mirrors, and china reproductions of elephants. It’s kitschy, old-school, and so reminiscent of a casual spot you’d find in the ‘burbs.
The food is simple average American, ranging from an array of huge salads to hot plates like steak & potatoes or chicken over angel hair pasta to a set of huge juicy burgers. The menu is extensive, encompassing a wide variety of ingredients. My smoked mozzarella, pancetta, and pine nuts salad was bogged down with oil dressing, but the generous chunks of smoked cheese and perfectly crispy pancetta really hit the spot. The desserts? Out of this world with perfect Ciao Bella sorbets and ice creams, thick drippy hot fudge, and plenty of fresh whipped cream. Don’t expect haute cuisine, culinary fireworks, or anything remotely grand. The food has high points and low points, but on a consistent basis, it is good, basic, filling, and cheap.
Elephant & Castle is the ultimate neighborhood joint – it’s quiet, quick, and easy. You don’t have to worry about how your hair looks; there’s no pounding music aggravating an already growing headache; the servers let you be to linger over your food; and the utter lack of pretentiousness lets you breathe a sigh of relief in the otherwise foodie-centric West Village dining scene. The place is clearly frequented by locals and regulars, wandering in, sitting at their usual table, and asking for a pot of coffee. Perfect for a comfortable meal with family or for settling in with a book in the corner, Elephant & Castle is a welcome break from the stylish stampede outside.