Monday, August 25, 2014


Root & Bone is founded by Jeff McGinnis and Janine Booth, a duet transplanted from the highly acclaimed Yardbird in Chicago to create this quaint little eatery in Alphabet City.  It has assumed the address of the dearly departed Mama's Food Shop, and they apparently incurred every single one of those nefarious, chronic obstacles faced by new restaurateurs endeavoring upon opening up a new place in this fair city.  At least according to Chef McGinnis: keep an eye out on for a potential story detailing this.   Unfortunately, it couldn't've happened to a nicer guy, too.  But getting this guy up and running might have daunted another enterpreneur, but the soul that evidences itself in the cuisine drove the partners to forge ahead, and much to our benefit, this fantastic, unique, and sort of magical  restaurant was born.

The space reminds me a bit of Portland Ned Ludd, another favorite of mine.  Air plants suspend from invisible filaments, and humble sprigs of evergreen balance country blossoms paired in bud vases-
 a novel and eye-catching combination.  There are crystal decanters repurposed into gorgeous sparkling chandeliers, hanging above the pass.   In fact, there is something interesting and curious in almost every nook, from a wishboard hung with tiny, hand-scribbied tags from customers, to random marrow bones skulking around in corners.

I entertained a vague fear that such a restaurant name might render things too gimmicky, but instead, it seems to translate into food grounded in authenticity.    The root, thte bone, the core, the heart.  Not so literal as I imagined, although there certainly was a proliferation of tubers and bone dominating the menu, as well as around the room.  But after settling it, the conviviality of atmosphere and sincerity of the food made it feel anything but forced.

Knowing the prominent heft of the menu, I began as lightly as I could, but no less pleased with the outcome.  A Sprouting Garden Salad was no plain mixed greens: big leaves of butter lettuce cradled bright cherry tomatoes, whimsical slices of candy cane beet and peppery radish, shreds of sugar snap peas and furls of cucumber, topped with crunchy veggie chips and nutty benne seeds (like sesame).  Keeping the country theme, it was big enough to share and dressed in a perky lemonade vinaigrette, creating quite a fantastic salad, and serving to open up the appetite for the so-much-more yet to come.

You can't miss Root 'n Bone's fried chicken: strictly gauging from the notoriety of Yardbird, you know this bird's gonna be delicious.  And live up to the hype it did, sheathed in a dark, crunchy-crisp crust shimmering with a lemony tartness balancing the sweet tea brine.  The meat within is moist, succulent... a lip-smacking combination, enhanced by a Tabasco-spiked honey which achieves that ultimate trifecta sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy, tender...  wait: tri?  Try hex.. hect.. octofecta?   There's so many good things going on with this bird it's hard to keep count.   Order it with it a cheddar-topped buckwheat waffle and
 you'll be lucky to be able to waddle out on your own volition.  That probably goes for two of the meatier entrees as well: braised short rib meat loaf  with mashed potatoes or a bone-in pork chop with bacon and brussels, but since I planned on walking myself home after dinner, I would have to exhibit some restraint.   I could've been easily tempted by the local catch with its melted tomatoes and succotash, but it happened to be salmon this evening (not a fan) and so the decision was easy for the Skrimp & Grits, which I had my eye set on anyways.

These grits were something for the annals, densely textured and as corny as all get out: they were creamy in the way a thick Greek yogurt is compared to Yoplait.  They would support a spoon impaled upright into their golden depth, their flavor just as profound.  Surrounded by a moat of Brooklyn lager jus and studded with salty shreds of Edwards Virginia country ham.. and I haven't even gotten to the bounty of sauteed Gulf skrimps (sic) (I forgot to ask why they're skrimps instead of shrimps, but I'm guessing it's just a playful colloquialism) and tangy bits of pickly red
 onion.  And not that we needed even a modicum more of food, I needed to try me some roots, so we got 'em.  A roasted rainbow of carrots and beets, sweet enough on their but augmented with house-made raisins, then covered in crispy thick-cut root chips, like those from Terra, but better.

Speaking of not needing more food, you could easily fill yourself without any help from the Bakery department, but you shouldn't, as it's ovens are firing on all cylinders.  I've read fabled reviews of Grandma Daisy's Angel Biscuits' ethereal lightness, but I didn't find them this way at all.  Maybe the "angel" in the name skewed perception, but for me, these hearty rolls brandished a flakey heft, most probably fabricated with lard or shortening, masterfully doughy counterparts to a dollop of fresh rhubarb preserves and lashings of butter.  Not light, but definitely heavenly.  And their sweet, piping hot cornbread served with sweetened buttermilk cream (which deserves a blog unto itself) and more of those jammy preserves could almost stand in for dessert.  Of a delicate and light crumb, I actually like my cornbread a nubbier, denser and less cakey, but of this style, it is an ideal rendition.  The aforementioned waffles, which did need to weighted down by the slab of cheddar to stand up to the hearty chicken, present a novel combination of the earthy buckwheat and sharp tang of cheddar, especially teamed with a shot of boozy whiskey maple syrup: Atkins would SO not approve.  

I rued not having room for dessert: we did not, in fact, even look at the dessert menu, somewhat lessening the pang of despair.   But glimpsing back on the online menu (make sure to go to, NOT rootandbone, which, like handynasty  .com vs. .net, provides two considerably different phenomena) now, I see their strengths continue celebrating the baker's proficiency: desserts are cakes and pies galore.  It might behoove them to throw in a cobbler or even a fruity sundae: after biscuits, pone and waffles, additional breadstuffs are hardly what the average eater is left wanting.  I could've easily been plied with the lure of some berry crumble or even peach pie, but at least given coconut or carrot cake, banana cream or Missippi Mud pie, skipping dessert was significantly less traumatizing.   Certainly, every aspect of their philosophy has been achieved:  

"Soul nurturing, conscientiously sourced, farm-fresh ingredients.
A craftsman's ethic coupled with artistic culinary thought.
A tribute to the timeless recipes and traditions of a rural America and the warm embrace of its hospitality."

And while its neighborhood environs suits the restaurant to a T, I'd get a frequent fryer card if it only wasn't so dastardly far out on the outskirts of Alphabet City....

200 East 3rd St.  1.646.682.7080

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