After reading Locanda Verde had “the best breakfast in New York” on Serious Eats, and being a fan of the current chef, Andrew Carmellini, last month I dragged a starving David crosstown for brunch. Naturally when we got there, the restaurant was closed, and after speaking to the doorman at the Greenwich Hotel, I learned Locanda Verde is not open for breakfast on the weekends. Major brunch FAIL! (For those interested, starting this Saturday, Locanda Verde is opening for brunch service, 11am-3pm. I’ll probably go in a few weeks, after the dust settles and the memory of the brunch fail dissipates.) I then considered venturing back east for brunch, but David looked near death from hunger, so we crossed the street and wandered into a curious restaurant with no signage, but with a large inviting door. Later from the menu we discovered we were in Smith & Mills.
Smith & Mills is a charming hipstaurant from the co-owner of Employees Only and the now closed Beatrice Inn. Formerly a carriage house, the restaurant/bar is decorated in the vintage style of saloons and apothecaries past, replete with bare Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling, antique glass jars, and a bathroom built in an old elevator shaft. Interior design in a restaurant is never a concern for me (hole-in-the-wall or Michelin star restaurant, it’s all the same to me), but I was seriously blown away by Smith & Mills. The place is simply gorgeous, even in the stark daylight.
Now on to the food! I ordered a BLT; crunchy bacon, heirloom tomatoes, bibb lettuce, and mayonnaise on chewy country bread ($12). It was a bit pricey for brunch, but they don’t skimp on the bacon or the quality of the ingredients. It wasn’t the best BLT in the world, but it was simple and good. Sometimes, that’s all you need. The BLT also came with sweet roasted red and yellow beets, fresh pickles, and homemade chips. A bit of moisture clung to potato chips since they weren’t freshly fried, but this was understandable since there is no real kitchen at Smith & Mills.
All the prep work at the 450 square feet restaurant/bar is done downstairs in the basement and the food is cooked right behind the bar. It’s pretty amazing, how much they’re able to produce in the tiny space. When we placed our order with the bartender, he rushed outside and got the day chef from downstairs and he immediately started cooking at the bar. That’s New York for you, you make do with what you got.
David ordered Two Eggs over easy ($12), which came with filone bread, criss-cross roasted small red potatoes, and crispy bacon. As he normally does, David gave me the bacon, and I was bit porkwhelmed, but more bacon is always better than too little I say. David seemed to like his eggs, but he especially liked the potatoes. Since the potatoes were criss-crossed and smooshed at the center, the insides were seasoned as well as the outside.
Of course, as is required at brunch, I got a bloody mary ($13), and I must say this was the chunkiest bloody mary I ever drank. The cocktail was swimming with large pieces of freshly grated horseradish — I know the horseradish was freshly grated because I found a knob at the bottom of the glass — and cracked black pepper, so much so in fact, my straw kept getting clogged mid-sip. After a while, I tossed the straw and chugged/chewed my drink down. If you’re not into horseradish or your sinuses don’t need to be cleared, I’d skip the bloody mary at Smith & Mills. It was indeed refreshing, but also a spicy heartburn-inducing meal in itself. I’ll be asking for my bloody mary less aggressive on the horseradish next time.
Looking for good food amid hype and hearsay is sometimes frustrating. You hear or read about a great place online and then somehow after a wild goose chase you come up empty. But sometimes, and it does happen once in a while especially in New York, you discover little gems like Smith & Mills by chance and you end up with a fat BLT.
Smith & Mills
71 N Moore Street (betw Greenwich St & Hudson St)
New York, NY 10013