Manhattan, New York – Peels

Restaurant: Peels
Cuisine: American/Desserts/Bakery
Last visited: September 8, 2011
Location: Manhattan, NY (Greenwich Village)
Address: 325 Bowery
Transit: Bleecker Street
Price Range: $10-20 for lunch, $20-30 for dinner

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 4.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • American classics
  • Upscale diner
  • Regional American cuisine
  • Gourmet comfort food
  • Casual, but sophisticated
  • House made desserts
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Breakfast until 4pm
  • Coffee/Tea
  • In house bakery
  • Moderately priced
  • Cocktails/wine list
  • Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch/Dinner menu
  • Mon-Sun – 7:30am-midnight

**Recommendations: Fried Chicken, Cheeseburger, Peels Sundae

Did you know that they don’t make fried chicken in France? I mean I know it’s an American classic, but the concept doesn’t seem that original or foreign. They probably serve it somewhere in France, but let’s just say it’s not typical. Well the information was new to me, but when my friend’s Parisian friend was on a fried chicken binge in New York, I decided to join them for a visit to Peels. As a tourist I wasn’t going to dedicate too much time on a search for this “best fried chicken” in Follow Me Foodie to New York, but this restaurant was on my itinerary anyway.

Fried chicken has been the craze for the last few years in New York and the one at Peels has made several “Top 10 Best Fried Chicken in New York” lists. The most popular fried chickens are at Pies-N-Thighs, The Redhead, Blue Ribbon Brasserie and BonChon Chicken, just to name a few, but this is a relatively new player.

Peels opened in 2010 and it already had a loyal following of hipsters. It’s sister restaurant to hidden gem Freemans which is also a beloved local favourite nestled away in an alley in the Lower East Side. Both are open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, but Peels is the more casual of the two. It’s somewhat of a fancy diner and it appeals to both a brunch and late night cocktail crowd.

The menu features gourmet comfort food and American regional classics. It was a big old shout out to Southwestern staples with some New Orleans inspiration. There was a good balance of vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes and the desserts pull equal weight since they have an in house bakery. The food was made from scratch and executed in a refined style with local and seasonal ingredients. It was an eclectic and approachable way to showcase farm to table dining.

The room is modern country and it reminded me of places like The Fat Radish or Bread, also new and popular places for brunch in New York. Brunch is a big deal in the city, and although I came for their dinner menu, I’d be really curious to come back for their other menus. The food I tried was more or less solid, and any disagreement was based on personal preference, but the overall experience was well enjoyed.

On the table:

Andouille Corn Dogs4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • With Creole mustard $11
  • I never order corn dogs, but it was one of those classics that you really expected this restaurant to deliver, and they did.
  • They were expectedly greasy, but incomparable to what you would find at a carnival or store freezer.

  • They had a crispy sweet corn bread batter that was super soft and moist and it melted in my mouth.
  • The cornbread batter was not doughy or chewy and almost the texture of mashed potatoes, but with a crispiness.
  • The batter can make or break the corn dog, and although this is heavier than I like, it was actually good so I didn’t mind.
  • The house made Andouille sausage was a course made spicy pork sausage that was medium fatty, moist and juicy.
  • It was well seasoned with spices, onions and chili flakes for a medium heat.
  • I liked the sweetness of the cornbread and then the salty and spicy balance of the meat. It made for a very grown-up version of the corn dog.
  • It was served with a grainy creole mustard for dipping and I liked them, but 1-2 was enough for me.

Pan Fried Potato Dumplings - 4/6 (Very good)

  • Cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic, chili & pecorino $9/18
  • It’s now served with roasted Maitake mushrooms, shallots, thyme and pecorino for $9.25/$18.50.
  • Well it’s nice to know they keep the menu fresh and seasonal and the price adjustment is fair for mushrooms over tomatoes.
  • I immediately thought of gnocchi, and then of the sweet potato dumplings they have in the South that I’ve never tried.
  • The potato dumplings were very much like gnocchi and they were pillowy soft, creamy, cheesy and melted in my mouth.
  • The cherry tomatoes were fantastic and each bite with them would be a burst of juicy tomatoes that gave the rich dish a nice acidity.
  • The gnocchi was served in a mildly spicy sauce or stew that was dominant with lots of caramelized onion, shallots and garlic with perhaps some wine, butter and cream.
  • The gnocchi wasn’t crispy, but buttery smooth and noticeable cheesy even under the rich sauce.
  • It was served as an appetizer, but I found it more of a side dish.

**Fried Chicken5/6 (Excellent)

  • Fresh kill, free-range birds, summer succotash & ranch dressing $21
  • It’s now served with red creamer mash potatoes and white gravy for $21.75.
  • The winter version actually sounds better than the summer version to me. Again, it’s nice to see seasonal change.
  • The chicken was super crunchy and crispy with a liquid, flour and coarse crumb batter.
  • The batter was almost flaking away on the exterior layer and it was crispy and crunchy.
  • The meat was moist and juicy and the chicken was well brined in buttermilk and tender.
  • It was well seasoned with a little heat, but it wasn’t spicy and there was a cooling buttermilk ranch dressing for dipping.
  • The chicken was served on a summer succotash that was almost like a gumbo with onions, beans, okra and tomato, and everything was fresh.
  • The succotash was slightly slimy due to the popped cherry tomatoes and okra, and although it’s not my ideal side for a fried chicken, it tasted good.
  • It’s incomparable, but I still like the Korean style BonChon Chicken.
  • The interpretation of Fried Chicken at Local 360 in Seattle is also excellent, but I would still recommend trying this one.

**Cheeseburger5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Grass-fed beef, cave-aged cheddar, pickles, roasted onions, french fries +2 add bacon $16 (It’s now $16.50)
  • I was actually more impressed with the cheeseburger than the fried chicken. I was so surprised!
  • The waitress kept insisting that it was the thing to try and I kept fighting it because it sounded so “blah”, but I caved and I’m glad that I did.
  • The fries didn’t look so great, but they were well seasoned and semi-crispy. It probably could use an oil change.
  • The fries reminded me of New York Fries with the skins on and I loved the gourmet ketchup served with them.
  • The Sir Kensington Ketchup was amazing! It was made with pear and tomato puree and sweetened with honey and agave with some apple cider vinegar for tang.
  • It tasted incredibly fresh like the tomatoes were just roasted and it had a mild heat of cayenne and paprika, but it wasn’t spicy.
  • There was a nice roasted flavour and tart and sweet balance. I loved it.

  • The other famous burger I tried was at The Spotted Pig (see their Chargrilled Burger), but I actually liked this one even more. It’s not as raved about because most people overlook it.
  • It was definitely more meat to bread, and all the ingredients were fresh and the flavours were balanced.
  • The bun was a soft and fluffy potato bun and it was on the sweet side. It was almost too light for the patty, but I still liked it.
  • The burger was served medium rare and it was incredibly juicy, but it made the bottom of the bread soggy and it was almost a knife and forker.
  • The patty was thick and it was bigger than the size of the bun and every bite would be dripping quality beef juices and not grease.
  • The meat was moist and peppery, tender and juicy, and just incredibly fresh. There was a slight heat, but it wasn’t spicy.
  • I could taste the melted cheddar, sweet caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, tang of pickle and lightly dressed slaw which all made for a good crunch. They were all good quality too.
  • It ended up being pretty wet with the mushrooms and beef releasing so many natural juices, but it all added to the messy pile of deliciousness.

Warm Stone Fruit & Berry Crisp Tart - 4/6 (Very good)

  • Labne sherbert, blueberry sauce $8 (Seasonal)
  • I’m a fan of any warm and cold dessert and anything with good quality ice cream, so I was on board with this immediately.
  • The tart was actually a soft and flaky puff pastry rather than a traditional crisp and thin French style tart. This was more like croissant pastry.
  • The top was covered with a soft oatmeal crumble which would have been better crisp and with nuts (my own preference), but it was still good.
  • There were nice pieces of fresh and tender nectarines, plums and blueberries in the tart and it wasn’t too sweet, but the blueberries weren’t seasonal.
  • The fruit filling was actually more tart than sweet and I think the nectarines may have been poached in some wine.
  • The tart was placed on blueberry sauce which made the tart even softer and a bit soggy too.
  • The labne (strained yoghurt) sherbert was icy, refreshing and cooling and almost enhnaced the tartness in the fruit.
  • I would have loved some vanilla beans in the yoghurt to add a fragrant factor.
  • It was an Americanized version of a tart meets a crumble and it wasn’t necessarily memorable, but very good.

**Peels Sundae5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Peanuts, pretzels, brownie bites, salted caramel, hot fudge $8 (It’s now $10)
  • This was freaking amazing! Again, the waitress insisted on ordering the sundae and I insisted that “I could make it at home” (Sh*t Foodies Say), but I caved again since her burger recommendation was such a hit!
  • Honestly this might be the best sundae I’ve had to date and I hate saying that because it’s just a sundae, but it’s true.
  • The quality of it was just so good and it was something that took more effort than just buying random ingredients.
  • Everything was house made and that made the difference.
  • It was a hybrid of a de-constructed peanut brittle and a gourmet sundae.
  • The ice cream is a highlight at Peels because it’s all fresh and home made with fine and simple ingredients.
  • The ice cream for the sundae is usually vanilla bean, but I ordered it with malt flavoured ice cream which was fantastic! It was creamy and not greasy.
  • It was well layered with a good ratio of each ingredient and there were so many textures.
  • It was soft, crunchy, creamy, and saucy and every bite offered a new surprise from top to bottom.
  • It had a perfect salt and sweet balance thanks to the crunchy pretzel bits, salted caramel and toasted peanuts too. The salt was not subtle, but not overpowering either.
  • The dark chocolate brownies were rich, dense, fudgy, chewy and moist and the salted caramel was made in house and not hurt your teeth sweet or sticky.
  • The hot fudge sauce was also very fresh and every bite was seriously a toe curling experience with hot and cold temperatures.
  • I liked this a lot more than the Salty Pimp from the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.
  • One con is that it’s increased to $10 which I think is pretty pricey unless their adding extra ingredients.
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Peels on Urbanspoon

2 Comments

  • Bow says:

    No corndogs for me but I love fried chicken…can’t make it at home(what am I gonna do with a liter of canola oil used in the frying…take it to Mohawk ?). Buttermilk used in the dip, rather than in the batter, huh ? Do you prefer it on the side or in the batter ? Nice review.
    Americans love chicken and waffle joints, ever try it ?

  • Linda says:

    nooooo! why must you tempt me with ANOTHER new york gem? :)

    mmm those corn dogs look good! i remember when i used to be a ticket seller at the PNE, i used to always eat corn dogs for dinner.. i really like the batter which is probably why i luv corn bread so much :)

    wow, i might just drop in this place to check out the peels sundae! looks delish!

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