Vinegar Hill House - Review
My wife and I hit the Vinegar Hill House with another couple last night. We live a few blocks away and have wanting to try it. We planned for an 8pm dinner and showed up at 7:40pm with our bottles of wine (they don't have their liquor license yet) and sat at the bar. It was Saturday night, but a slow one because of the weather. The place was only about 1/2 full. The bartender said "It should be picking up any minute" and as if on cue, the place filled up inside 10 minutes. By the time our friends arrived, the place was packed!
The atmosphere is just what I imagined. Easy, comfortable, relaxing atmosphere with totally chill servers. If we'd been in California, the phrase of the day would have been "No worries, dude. It's all good." Not sure what the NYC equivalent is, but that was the vibe.
We were sat around 8:30pm, having reserved our table when we walked in. The food was also as expected - very homey, very competent and very delicious. Nothing particularly memorable, but great home cooking.
For appetizers, the ladies had the bean soup special - cannellini beans with pork in a gentle broth. It was great, and something you felt like you could make at home (in a good way). We also ordered the Chicken Liver Mousse, which was fantastic. It came with some crackin' good bread and was just a little better than you even would have expected. I had the mussels, despite all of the negative comments posted here about them. The waiter assured me they were good and he was right! There were a ton of them, they were all plump and delicious and the chili broth was fantastic. Everyone with me tried one and agreed that they were terrific. So don't be afraid of ordering them.
For entrees, one ordered the pork ribs. They were delicious and tender. Quite salty and flavorful too. The rest of us had the infamous chicken. The chicken in the pan was delicious, but not particularly memorable. That's not a complaint, but I'm not sure where all of the rapturous accolades came from. It's a very good dish. The broth in the pan was quite vinegary - not a strict chicken jus. I didn't really prefer it - just my taste - but the others liked it quite a bit. it was surprising to us all.
After we finished our entrees we sat there for at least 45 minutes before anyone came over to us. By that time it was 10:45pm (it's a VERY relaxed dinner, despite the bustle) and we had to leave, so no dessert was had.
All in all, it's a fantastic neighborhood place, similar to Noodle Pudding in quality. I'm not sure it's worth a trip from elsewhere - perhaps for the atmosphere, but not necessarily for the food. As a local joint, though, it's a place I'd visit quite often. They'll do well, I expect.
We went this summer and luckily got a table without a wait at about 7:30. The place was packed shortly after. We enjoyed most of our meal and would definitely go back. Didn't notice the griminess, but will keep an eye out for it the next time. That type of thing bothers me too. The room was small and sweetly decorated. Our server was attentive, but very busy once the place filled up. Had the pork chop and loved it. It looks like it should be "porterhouse for two". It was a large, juicy, sliced chop served reddish/pink. Didn't care for the cold potato salad that accompanied it and our table was very small (and oddly shaped). But, it is a great addition to an area with very few good options for dinner.
I actually meant to post on VHH after I tried it back in the spring. I had the signature roast chicken and it was delicious *but* (call me crazy) I was put-off by the griminess of the place. I get that they are going for rustic but it just seemed dirty to me. In addition, I visited the bathroom after placing my order mostly to wash my hands post-subway/pre-eating to discover that the soap dispenser was empty. I poked my head out to ask for a refill and proceeded to wait a good 15 minutes (really!) while someone ran around looking for soap. She finally brought me a tiny ramekin with about two drops of liquid in it (it was really not enough for one hand-washing). My companion visited the bathroom later and there was still no soap.
I may give it another chance but, honestly, this kind of thing matters to me. After all, what was the staff doing about washing their hands?
I suppose I will offer another review for those perusing these boards, as we finally tried Vinegar Hill House last night. Monday night around 8--happily no wait, likely due to the day of the week, although there were only a few tables vacant. The atmosphere is, as many have commented, extremely nice. All wood and soft lights...probably a great date place for this reason...homey, romantic/stylish ambiance.
On to the drink...one, the beer list is fairly priced (sick of spending $7 or $8 on a Stella bottle at a restaurant) and includes a couple mass market brands, a couple smaller breweries. My husband had 2 different red wines by the glass, both of which he thought were very good, although expect a relatively small glass (and for this reason, if you are with a party that includes more than one wine drinker, i'd go with a bottle. they have an extensive wine list).
And of course, the food!, most important (with a note of caution: the whole menu changes frequently apparently, so dishes are likely to be different depending on the night, so some of this review may be helpful, some of it less so):
1) we're bread eaters, and we were a little dismayed at the lack of starter bread...i know this is not a big deal for many, and i know that some even ignore bread when it is served, but this place somehow seemed to scream out "good bread from a good local bakery" and yet, it wasn't there. just a note.
2) for a starter we shared the pea shoot ravioli starter...while it was tasty, it was certainly not amazing, and if you get some good ravioli from Caputo's in CG or some of the other local Italian specialty shops and serve them in butter sprinkled with good parmesan, you are likely to be able to do this at home, easily.
but most importantly, there were FIVE raviolis on this dish, priced at $11 (!) If either of us had ordered this as an entree, we would have been severely disappointed at the value/size of this dish.I've heard similar critiques about their other pasta dishes (in regards to size). So this is a word of caution: don't order the pasta, as an entree especially. this is unfortunate as it's the only vegetarian option on the menu--so if you are vegetarian, or are dining with vegetarians, probably best to avoid VH...
3) The meat dishes are delicious and very generous in size. My husband had the pork chop, and commented that it was the best pork dish he had ever eaten...I tried it as well, and it was extremely tasty. This makes me think that if there is pork on the menu, you probably can't go wrong as I'm pretty sure they are sourcing the pork from a specific farm/supplier. The meat was tender, sweet, etc. I had the much-discussed chicken, which was very tasty, as commented above, had a vinegary taste to it which I liked, and good value at $14. However, the pork dish was the real winner.
We did not get any desserts, so I cannot comment about them, although they LOOKED pretty nice, homey, not too fancy (which is a positive in my world).
So in total, VH is a good addition to the neighborhood, and a great place to take people from out of town (provided they eat meat!!) due to the very specific cozy atmosphere inside (there's also a nice garden out back, good for the upcoming summer). Just a few caveats to keep in mind s'all.
Thanks binkis for the review. I also live in the neighborhood and have been hearing the mixed reviews, which I attributed to the fact that it was new. Sounds like they are working out the kinks and responding to the reviews. This is great for the residents of Dumbo and Vinegar Hill who so desperately want more restaurant choices.