Dirt Candy: Showing Earth’s Bounty Really is Sweet
Nestled just below street level a block off Tompkins Square Park, Dirt Candy is a shoe-box sized cross between cozy downtown date spot and Tokyo karoake bar. Only a neon orange mini-awning distinguishes it from a long line of restaurants on 9th between the park and St. Marks. Down a short flight and into the tiny dining room, you’re enveloped in a cheery orange and pink illuminated space with just 9 tables, an open kitchen the size of mine (read: itsy bitsy), and mellow light wood paneling. Two waitresses (one of which I discovered late in the meal was actually chef Cohen herself) hustle between the tables, taking orders, serving, and bussing themselves.
The ‘parsnip’ entree was a true wonder, featuring parsnip gnocchi, a cabbage slaw, and carrot cake crunch. I don’t care what was in this – it was the creamiest and richest gnocchi dish I have ever consumed with gorgeous plump gnocchi bits that melted in my mouth and crispy crunchy slaw on top. Just perfect! The eggplant dish was not my favorite as, to quote my friend Diana, “eggplant is really the most polarizing vegetable.” However, an eggplant lover herself, she immensely enjoyed her meal of black olive fettucine topped with picked eggplant, eggplant jam, eggplant strings, and ricotta – a purple feast!
All four dishes presented vegetarian options not as obligatory add-ons to a menu or as tastes-like-cardboard lifestyle decisions but as a full-fledged cuisine in its own right. At no point in time did I think – jeez, what am I doing in a vegetarian place. The food was so reminiscent of the rich, buttery, and creamy dishes you get at New York’s top restaurants that it’s easy to forget there’s no meat!
Dirt Candy is perfect for a ladies night out or a quiet dinner for two. The relaxed and friendly service doesn’t rush you, allowing for a leisurely meal if you wish for it. Looking to experiment with veggies-only cuisine? Dirt Candy is a great starter spot (and trust me, you’ll want to keep coming back).