It made no sense to wind up at The Little Owl after attending the Mostly Mozart festival at Lincoln Center, but somehow we did. Diana’s youngest brother Brian was in town and we thought it would be fun to get rocked by Amadeus at Avery Fisher Hall. Our plan was to see the concert and then to eat Mexican food afterwards across the street at Rosa Mexicana.
Yet, when the concert let out at 10:30 and I led Diana and Brian across the street to nosh at this well-regarded Mexican eatery, Diana was outraged by the prices. “I am outraged by the prices,” she said. “This is way too expensive.” The entrees were in the $25 range.
“Well what should we do?” I protested.
“Let’s go down to the Village,” she said.
“The Village!” I retorted. “But it’s 10:30 and I is huuuungry.”
Diana was unsympathetic, so we boarded the 1 train and rode it down to Christopher. On the ride down we discussed all the places we could go. “There’s Blue Ribbon, there’s Snack Taverna,” one of us began. “There’s Home, there’s Pearl Oyster Bar,” the other one finished. Brian looked at us curiously. “Are you guys writing a guidebook or something?”
Then it dawned on us. “The Little Owl!” we declared.
“What’s The Little Owl?” asked Brian.
“It’s a new restaurant,” Diana and I replied simultaneously. “Bruni gave it a great review. It’s supposed to have the best pork chop in New York.”
So once off the train, we headed down 7th Ave. to Bedford, made a right and after a few blocks we alighted on The Little Owl. A host swooped down on us, like a little owl, and said: “Hi! How many?” We said, “Three,” and he said, “Ok, sit tight, these people are on dessert, you should be all set. Do you want any water?”
The immediacy of the service was startling. And then they gave us water and asked if we wanted anything to drink. We were sitting on the bench outside, as you can see in the picture above. “No,” we said politely. “Think we’ll wait ’til we order food.”
The wait took longer than expected. The table that was supposed to get up lingered over their dessert and the wine in their glasses. It was now 11:15 and outrageously late to be eating dinner. We watched a parade of Villagers waltz by, including a bachelorette party that was seeking condoms. “Do they sell condoms here?” they asked the maitre’d. I think he knew them because he gave one of them a hug.
Now we were getting really restless at 11:30. I stood up and gazed upon the table we were waiting for. Brian and I made a bet. “Do you think they’ll get up within the next five minutes?” I asked. “No,” he said. So I looked at my watch. It was still 11:30 on the nose. Yet, using my intimidation tactics, body gestures and meaningful eye contact, I forced these ladies to arise and leave their table. It was 11:34. “I won,” I declared victoriously. Brian nodded patiently. He’s a high school senior on his way to Harvard.
Once inside, we were treated like royalty. “Death to the king!” someone shouted, diving at me with a knife.
Then the waitress came over and asked if we wanted anything to drink. “After we order,” I said. We studied the menu and made some major decisions. The waitress returned and help us revise our decisions.
“Is one appetizer enough?” I asked.
“I’d get two for three people,” she said.
We were already getting the sliders. “What else do you recommend?” I wondered.
“The Ricotta Cavatelli with fava beans, tomato broth and bacon,” she said.
“Sold!” we said.
So here it is and they did something remarkable here, something that puts The Little Owl on a special shelf in my heart. They split it for us into three little bowls. This is unheard of in the restaurant world. 99% of places I’ve dined refuse to split an appetizer between three people because it’s bad economics for them—extra dishes, extra work for no extra money. But here they split it three ways without being asked. That wins them major points.
What also wins them major points is that it tasted like Heaven in a bowl. Actually, it was too naughty to be Heaven. Maybe like a devilish exchange student to heaven in a bowl? We all enjoyed it thoroughly.
But then came the sliders. How could you not lick your screen and make this your desktop image?
A perfect taste trio, perfect for three people, these are the best sliders I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a slider before, but I can’t imagine one better. The proportions, the textures, the flavors, the presentation: it was all first rate. These had all of us smiling big slider smiles.
Diana and I ordered wine with our pork chops. The waitress recommended a red, brought out a bottle for us to taste, we liked it and then she returned to say they’d ran out of that kind of red, but this kind is also good. She poured us a taste, we liked it and drank. If I remembered anything more about it, I would tell you. (Must write down wine in the future! Must write down wine in the future!)
And now, here it is, what Frank Bruni declared to be “The star of the menu, a dish that seemingly every third diner orders…. a glorious hunk of flesh.”
Diana and I both ordered the famous pork chop and, digging in, our faces lit up with excitement and gratitude for living on this earth. “Holy shit,” one of us said, I won’t say which. “This is amazing.”
And it was true. The marinade (which we learned contained garlic, cumin, chili powder, and fennel seeds) made it go POW in our mouths. The waitress told us that it’s grilled on all sides, which is how it’s so tender. The outside went crunch and the inside melted in our mouths. We applauded after every bite.
Brian, on the other hand, had chicken.
He liked it, especially because he swapped the asparagus for mashed potatoes. His plate was clean by the end of the entree course.
When it was taken away, we were all patting ourselves on the back. “What a pick!” “What a great meal!” “What about dessert?”
The dessert menus were brought and the waitress, upon being prompted, recommended the strawberry semi-fredo.
“What about the brownie one?” asked Diana.
“Why not get both?” said Brian.
So we got both. Here’s the strawberry:
And here’s the brownie:
I have often contended on here that chocolate is an inferior substance, inferior to the fruit desserts it frequently does battle with on dessert menus. This was no exception: the strawberry dessert won universal raves (“This one’s the best,” declared Brian.) The chocolate dessert was just, “eh.”
The bill came and it was surprisingly reasonable for all the food we had. Plus it was presented in a cute little Beans and Lentils book:
In conclusion, The Little Owl is a charming little restaurant with fantastic food. The trick to getting in is to show up outrageously late, which may not be as bizarre as you think. When Clotilde came to New York we had a Babbo reservation at 11. People eat that late in this city and you should be no exception. Go see Mozart, then go eat the best pork chop in New York. It worked for Emperor Joseph in “Amadeus,” why shouldn’t it work for you?