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Jan 6, 2008 10:45 AM

Thumbs up to The Smith

I met a friend for dinner at The Smith, the new American restaurant on 3rd Ave between 10th and 11th. We went around 9ish on Saturday without reservations (not sure if The Smith takes them.)

The room is pleasant and capacious, with booths along the side and cafe-like tables in the rest of the space. alongside the right hand side is a long and spacious bar. The bar was full of people but I never felt crushed during my half-hour wait for a table. Drinks are reasonably priced - wine by the glass ranges from 6 to 10 dollars with most being 7 or 8, and the specialty mixed drinks were 8 or 9. I had something called the "Traveling Brit" (gin, Pernod, mint and lime - very anise-inflected.) Ladies, there are hooks for your purses! The crowd was young (most in their 20s, I would guess) and happy - the room had an upbeat, convivial vibe to it.

We were seated in one of the booths along the side, a primo seat. The menu is straightforward and gently priced. I was in a light eating mood, so I sadly passed up the "calamari Brooklyn style" - calamari wtih spicy tomato sauce- for a baby arugula salad followed by salmon with brussel sprouts and bacon bits. My friend had a plate of chicken sausage, peppers and potatoes with a side of spinach.

The server, who was cheerful and helpful, brought us both still and sparkling water gratis to start in glass bottles. Napkins are sort of like cloth dishtowels.

All the food was very good. My salad was tasty albeit brimming with cheese - I left over half of it on the plate - and the salmon was nicely prepared with a crispy crust. My friend's sausage turned out to be delicious and spicy, and the spinach had a bright green taste to it and was grit-free. The bread and butter is boring, however.

Most of the desserts were some variation on ice cream sundaes, which I found weird. I didn't order any.

Prices are very gentle. Our food plus a glass of wine and a beer was about $60.

I enjoyed The Smith. It's well-situated to grab a bite to eat before or after a movie or a show. It would be a great place for a first or second date, or to meet up with friends. I recommend it.

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    1. The Smith: Dull Name, Duller Food

      If Candace Bushnell is your preferred author of erotica and Miracle Whip your favorite condiment, then by all means, crunch on through the Smith’s hipster candy coating and sink your Redi-Brite teeth into its kindergarten comfort food. Cisco on the stereo and Sysco on the plate are the orders of the day at this low cost high calorie TGIFriday’s wannabe. Below are five of the high and low lights

      1) Convivial packed house: Fun to visit a winner, sad to see that this wins

      When every table is full, and every seat at the bar is taken, and everyone has had a drink or three, it’s hard to argue that a restaurant isn’t on to something. Then again, by that logic the Olive Garden managers in Paramus and Natick should be tenured professors at Cornell’s hotel school.

      2) Mac and Cheese: A greasy smear of textureless pap

      The overheated hype surrounding the Smith’s flavorless fat bomb smacks of lazy food writing swiped from press releases. Nothing for mind or mouth to chew on.

      3) Tasty Potato chips and Blue Cheese Sauce: Thanks Blue Smoke

      A step up on airplane snack food, a step down from Blue Smoke’s far superior version.

      4) Dumbed down desserts are dumb: Saccharine isn’t sweet

      The peanut brittle, caramel and ice cream sundae proves sometimes too much is too much. A chocolatey pint of stout is a better option in dessert fare and a deal at five dollars.

      5) Bargains at the Bar: Reasonable Draught and Wine List

      The wine list is spartanly described—grapes only, no producers or vintages—but well selected for by the glass ordering. Familiar pinots (blanc, noir, etc) are balanced by marginally exotic malbec and almost interesting torrontés and riesling. Same idea for beer.

      Conclusion: If Disney made a Brooklyn hipster restaurant for Epcot, this would be the Universal Studios knockoff.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Fat and Happy Food Slut

        I'm not sure any restaurant deserves this kind of review, especially from someone who's apparently only visited once. I've only been once as well, but it's pretty clear that it's just a neighborhood restaurant that will churn out some dependables along with some disappointments. Maybe visit again and give the schnitzel a try. Or don't.

        1. re: Fat and Happy Food Slut

          I love the Disney - Universal comment, hillarious. Ok i just had to share that, and i think this place is pretty lacking too.

        2. I haven't been for lunch or dinner, but they do a damn good brunch.

          1. Thanks eeee. I think The Smith is a fun casual spot that turns out some solid dishes. I've been twice for dinner and I'm looking forward to going back a third time with friends. I just don't think they deserve that harsh of a review. You know you're not going for a highbrow dining experience.

            3 Replies
            1. re: petitechoux

              Exactly. Look, it's one thing if they charge you $15 for appetizers and $30 for entrees. Then, by all means, go to town criticizing the food and the restaurant. But this is a fun, relatively cheap place with reliable food. Bashing it like that makes about as little sense as Bruni reviewing Max Brenner's chocolate shop.

              1. re: MomoMed

                Agreed. It's a restaurant that has something for everyone, limited waits, friendly staff, and at a decent price point. Happy Food Slut pans it for a lot of the peripheral but doesn't focus on what the restaurant does best, which, as MomoMed points out is well-executed food (for the most part) at a good price.

                I've been there for both brunch and dinner and left satisfied both times. I will say they make a tasty bloody mary that seemed way light on the vodka. But otherwise I've been pleased.

                To each their own...

              2. re: petitechoux

                Agreed. This is one my new solo late-night dining favorites. The food is decent and cheap, the beer/wine selection is good, and the bartenders are quite friendly and generous with buybacks. I do avoid it on Thurs-Sat nights though, as it does get overrun with a bar crowd.

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