Hundred Acres: A Rustic-ish Faux Farmhouse in Manhattan
Hundred Acres, sister restaurant to shining stars Five Points and Cookshop, is a restaurant I’m just dying to like, and yet, after three visits, I can’t bring myself to really adore it. This simple seasonal spot with the on-trend farmhouse look fails to rise above average no matter how you spin it.
Although beautifully designed, Hundred Acres feels contrived. The rustic farmhouse vibe is made chic with slick furnishings, expensive faux-antique lighting, and contemporary twists on country kitchen kitsch. Instead of feeling even remotely authentic, the restaurant feels almost clubby and geared towards the trendy Soho set.
The front room is most appealing with a hoppin’ bar scene and large windows that open fully onto Macdougal Street – snag a table in the window and you’re guaranteed some fantastic people-watching. The middle room is billed as evoking a “farm’s welcoming kitchen” with a table burdened with fresh fruit and flowers (does this make it farm-like…?) – in reality, it’s a cramped, hot, and noisy. It is perhaps this element that most nearly mimics a country kitchen. The back is charming with a cloistered garden meant to seem like “your own backyard”- only if it’s shut-in and tiny! No matter how you look at it, Hundred Acres gussies up a rustic farmhouse look to suit the fashionable needs and tastes of Soho’s trendy locals.
The food at Hundred Acres is seasonal and spruced-up American comfort food (sound familiar? yes, another trendy spot boasting simple and comfortable fare). In general, the food ranges from good to very good, occasionally to inspired; however, it’s safe to say that both Five Points and Cookshop execute and present their similar cuisines better, faster, and prettier. At Hundred Acres, expect dishes like beer-battered squid with shaved fennel, ruby red grapefruit, black olives, and aioli (a fancy version of fried calamari), roasted parsnip and turnip soup with heirloom carrot salad, Amish chicken with sweet potatoes, dried fruit compote and walnut butter, a burger, and a semolina macaroni with butternut squash, currants, pine nuts, sage, and breadcrumbs (mac & cheese, all dressed up).
Through these barely recognizeable variations on American comfort food, complex and diverse flavors are brought together to produce new twists on classics. Unfortunately, such ‘innovation’ comes with mixed success as several flavors fall flat (who wants pine nuts in mac & cheese?) and oftentimes, all you want is the original.
My real gripe with Hundred Acres though is with the truly deplorable service. Right from the start, I was forced to wait 15-30 minutes for a reserved table all three times I visited. What is the point of taking reservations if they are rarely honored? The hostess merely brushed my party off to the already-swamped bar, where we all hovered hoping that the frantic bartender would notice us. Once seated, the speed of service varied from slow to lethargic to truly tortoise-like. On my first visit, it took so long for coffees and dessert to come out that we canceled our order, and on the second visit, our entrees took 45min to arrive (and they very nicely comp-ed our desserts on the house). On top of the long gaps in table service, the servers themselves are so harried and strung out that they don’t bother to seem in the least bit apologetic or friendly, for that matter.
Hundred Acres is unfortunately the ugly stepsister of Five Points and Cookshop. It has all the right trappings (yummy-looking menu, sleek on-trend design, good pedigree), yet none of the spark required to make it, well, worth your while. Skip Hundred Acres and get more bang for your buck at Cookshop, Cornelia Street Cafe, Kingswood, Little Giant, The Harrison, or Braeburn.