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Jan 12, 2010 07:14 AM

Northern Spy Food Co.

This place really deserves to be on the NYC chowhound radar. I had lunch here last week and liked it so much I had to have another lunch the next day. Everything I had was amazing- subtle combinations of flavors and textures. It's like they're taking the aesthetic of a high end restaurant like Blue Hill and re-shaping it into an extremely budget-friendly casual place. Case in point- pork terrine with pistachios, asparagus, etc. This could easily have been served in a fancy place like Jean-Georges or Craigie St. in Boston or Fore St. in Portland, ME (I'm a New Englander). I could not imagine a more delicate, palate-stimulating pork preparation. It's light years away from the lard-drenched, bacon-studded, pork belly-napped dishes that slam you with fat and salt. That's typical of the Northern Spy approach- light but not too light, flavorful but not overpowering, and creative yet comforting at the same time. And the fact that they do it all for a fraction of the price of any similar restaurant I can think of makes it all the more impressive. Can't wait to go back again.

Northern Spy Food Co.
511 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

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  1. I totally agree with you. I went here about a month ago and really enjoyed it. I know I had the chicken dish, I forget what DGF had but I remember we both really enjoyed it (maybe polenta?) We also split an app... maybe the cheese plate? It looks like the menu has changed a little bit. I recall the cheese plate being inordinately expensive compared to the rest of the menu and we actually ordered it out of the dessert menu. Oh, we also had the wheatberry side, which was a very pleasant surprise.

    I'm not sure why it doesn't get more attention. Maybe it's not flashy or terribly "inventive" cuisine, but it's really solid. Maybe the room is a little sparse and feels distinctly un-cozy. I think though, given the quality of the food and the very low price point. By the way, did the mains go up? I thought the chicken was only $12. Not that 15 is too high, but I remember it being lower.

    4 Replies
    1. re: egit

      All the early reviews I read complained of a lack of seasoning (particularly salt). Have they remedied that? The place sounded great but all the reviews I read of it turned me off (and I walk by it all the time, so I do really want it to be good).

      1. re: _emilie_

        Did not notice a problem with salt. Their food is awesome and you're not taking a big financial risk.

        1. re: _emilie_

          New Englanders have a blander palate so the salt issue might still be a problem for you.

          1. re: dietndesire

            Oh tell me about it! I grew up on salty southern food, so I know I have a biased palate to start with. I'm really not into this whole new Bloomberg anti-sodium initiative either. But that said I really ought to give Northern Spy a try -- I'll just sneak a shaker in with me.

      2. I'll bite here... Definitely dig the Spy. Good low key spot in the neighborhood with better food than the price point would suggest. Very similar to Westville, but with more of a country market vibe to it. weekly changing menu too, keeps things fresh.

        1 Reply
        1. re: iFat

          Wow, this place does not miss a beat-sustainable never tasted so good. One of the most enjoyable dinners ever! We had the Kale salad, the pork trotter dish and the pork meatballs followed by the bosc frangiapane tart. But Northern Spy also a friendly and thoughtful place with a good vibe, tasty beer, even bought some groceries to take home.

        2. Looking for current intel. Any recent experiences at Norther Spy Food Co.?


          3 Replies
          1. re: Desidero

            Have been there a bunch and always enjoy it. It's more of a great neighborhood/local spot than it is a destination restaurant, but the food is solid and well priced.


            1. re: Desidero

              I went a couple weeks ago with a vegetarian friend for brunch and was really impressed. That kale salad is great (I actually craved it the other day), as are their homemade sodas (I had a strawberry rhubarb) and -gasp- even the biscuits were pretty good (I'm a very harsh judge of biscuits -- had these been hot from the oven rather than room temp, I would have given them an A; every other biscuit I have had in this town apart from the ones from my oven have been utter failures). I definitely plan to go back for dinner, but agree its not really a destination place.

              1. re: Desidero

                been there 5-6x since they opened...last time was maybe 3 weeks back.

                meatball app is solid, roast chicken is excellent though a tad salty, they have various preparations of pork each night...the porchetta is fantastic...seriously excellent...though heavy for the summer.

                any preparation of gnocchi is a must...they sear the outsides...they are delicious. i skip dessert and go to milk bar instead.

              2. just posted about my experience on this thread:

                overall, after all the praise i'd read here and elsewhere, northern spy was a big disappointment. i almost never compare restaurants to what i can do at home, but we were doing just that throughout our meal there. i think that since i cook at home a lot, get amazing produce through a CSA, and have learned a ton from sunday suppers at lucques and the zuni cookbook, the bland bread salad made with the most bland bread imaginable and the underflavored squash soup really paled in comparison to comparable things i make. the grilled cheese, though tasty, was not at all what i'd expect when you call something a grilled cheese. the freekeh risotto was great--maybe that, and the meat dishes that people are praising here, is the way to go?

                1 Reply
                1. re: rose water

                  Everything I've had on later visits has been good, but I didn't have any of what you listed. Their apple pie was excellent. I had the kale salad again, and I think I prefer it with the egg -- its a little simple without. I also had a special there once that was pork belly with something or other that was very good, and my dining companions all loved what they've had each time (I know the chicken sandwich was involved, but I forget what else). Bummer that your meal was such a let down.

                  1. re: BROOKLYNDINER

                    Any more recent experience? SO and I are venturing to Manhattan from the food delights of Portland Maine in a few weeks, and I had read about Northern Spy in a review a year or so ago.

                    1. re: mainemal

                      You won't be disappointed! It's an all around great place.

                      1. re: mainemal

                        I still think its very good, but with two caveats:

                        1) As mentioned above, bear in mind this is a very good neighborhood restaurant, but maybe not a dazzling *Destination Meal* (though that said, I took my mother here when she was visiting from out of town and she loved it so much I think it will be a destination for HER on future visits - she had, and recommends, a sausage breakfast sandwich). I can't think of a better place in the immediate area for casual, seasonal American though, and its certainly the best brunch by a mile.

                        2) I just read that they got a new chef. I would assume that that will eventually mean changes to the menu, which could be good or bad. Hopefully they won't shoot themselves in the foot and take off the most popular items. As of right now on Menupages, stuff like the kale salad, the chicken sandwich and the sausage sandwich are still on there.

                        1. re: _emilie_

                          It looks like the new chef is actually changing the menu up quite a bit:

                          The food looks much more dressed up than the original. I've yet to try it, but hope its still as good.