Fedora: A Popular Neighborhood Dive Reborn
When I first moved to Perry Street two years ago, Bar Fedora was a total dive – the sort of spot popular with aging men from the surrounding ‘hood (i.e. not a place I’d visit regularly). Although beloved by neighborhood patrons, Bar Fedora went under about a year ago. Gabe Stulman, of Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey’s Grocery fame, has spruced up Fedora, transforming it into a neighborhood hotspot with artisanal cocktails and an haute comfort food menu that’s all the rage right now.
Fedora is tiny. Descending down the few stairs into the cozy dining room, it’s hard not to notice how truly small this new ‘hotspot’ is, especially when it’s crammed with people. The narrow space has small mismatching dining tables against one wall and a long wooden bar on the other. The look is simple and tasteful, with hints of old Americana peppered through out. White walls covered with beautiful photographs and a white tin ceiling help this space-challenged restaurant out, and the lustrous black leather banquettes and gleaming bar add a touch of luxury to the otherwise sparse decor. Much of these design elements are left unnoticed though when the night really gets swinging; more interesting is the fashionable yet diverse crowd that packs into the various nooks and crannies of the quirky space and pushes towards the bar good-naturedly.
There’s no dispute here that the food is very good. It’s not the most thrilling or innovative menu ever, but perhaps that’s not the intention. The food is classic homey-American with ‘haute’ finishes here and there; in fact, it’s almost identical to that served at Stulman’s other establishment, Joseph Leonard. Expect unusual proteins like lamb sausage and hake, various offal at times, a crispy fried chicken, and two ‘special’ appetizers that rotate on a weekly basis. The chicken liver toast, a regular these days on trendy menus all over Manhattan, is good; it’s not marvelous and it’s not near the best I’ve had recently, but the chicken liver mousse is creamy and smooth, and the red cabbage topping is a refreshing surprise. The week I visited, one of the special appetizers was a raw tuna dish, served ceviche-style, with a pepper vinaigrette; it was light and zesty, meaty without tasting heavy; the quality of the fish was indisputably high.
The entrees were virtually flawless – the perfect combination of hearty and soulful and executed beautifully. The roasted hake served atop a creamy polenta with shitake mushrooms and radish is the perfect antidote to a warm summer evening; somehow, miraculously, it packs in huge amounts of creamy savory flavor and yet still manages to feel light and refreshing. It hit all the right flavor-notes, harnessing tastes of both the ocean and the earth. The lamb sausage and octopus was equally marvelous – though in a completely different way. Hefty and substantial, the combination of thick lamb sausage, a long octopus tentacle, crunchy lentils, and minted sour cream was nothing short of explosive; the dish was salty, savory, meaty, and a mix of playful textures.
Fedora is exactly the sort of place you want to go to on an ‘off-peak’ sort of night – a night when the crowds are all elsewhere and you can enjoy your hand-crafted barrel-aged cocktail and your pressed pork sandwich without being distracted by the glint of a 23 year old girl’s sequin dress that’s altogether too close to your food. When it’s not stuffed to the gills with the hordes of hot young things dying to check out the hottest new bar, Fedora is quite charming – the ideal sort of neighborhood spot that you can still take your fashionable friends to without worrying about whether it’s cool enough. Because, trust me, it’s cool enough.
Perfect For: people-watching, fancy cocktails, Sunday night supper, West Village locals, before the a big night out