314 W. 11th Street
Ah, The Spotted Pig. I have now been there four times and I still have yet to order anything other than their famous Roquefort cheeseburger. On dark nights solace comes to me as a vision of Guinness pints and a blue cheeseburger. I particularly begin to daydream about a visit to the Spotted Pig when there is a hint of chill in the air—as there was the day my boyfriend and I decided to go there at the end of a visit to the Natural History museum. After laying below the belly of the great blue whale, listening to the lulling sounds of penguins making their way across Artic tundra, I was keen on nestling into the warm nook of the downstairs bar. Oddly enough, I find that I much prefer to sit at the bar area of almost every restaurant I go to. Either to be closer in proximity to Court, or to hear a good friend that much better—I love the intimacy of bar seats and the added attraction of watching all of the action. The action at The Spotted Pig is low-key—tattooed bartenders pouring drink after drink with agility to the motley crowd of regulars, tourists, foodies, and hipsters.
I have been reading about the wonders of April Bloomfield's gastropub fare for a couple years now, but somehow much of the menu rarely beckons to me. It could be that even the salads are $13-15, which seems a bit steep to me compared with the giant $15 burger that, with the towering mound of shoestring fries, is a wonderful deal. It could be that after a Guinness or an Old Speckled Hen (another favorite beer of mine) that the burger just seems "right". Although, I have to admit that last time the Prosciutto & Ricotta Tart($15) sounded quite tempting.
One of my favorite visits was on the coldest night of the year and I specifically went there craving the warmth of the pub and a belly full of meat and beer. We arrived around 5:45 and most of the seats around the downstairs bar were already taken, but we managed to score a nook next to three feisty, Manhattan-drinking, older ladies. It was a tight squeeze, but I somehow thought that this would just add to the warmth that I was desperately craving after the bitterly cold walk from the subway. Unfortunately, we had not anticipated the brutally cold draft that came from people opening the door next to the stairs and we pretty much froze the entire night. Court suggested that we move, but I stubbornly insisted on staying at the bar. And ultimately, I am glad I did—as it is where he noticed one of the final contestants on season two of Top Chef. It was Sam, the tall, taciturn chef from New York, presumably there with his girlfriend. My boyfriend was dying to ask Sam if he “purposely sabotaged Marcel’s efforts by forgetting his fish” in the last episode, but I persuaded him to leave him in peace.
As per usual, we decided to order the cheeseburger medium rare and were delighted with it, though I have to admit I am always tempted to ask for a slice of red onion (and maybe a tomato when it is in season). The burgers that we have had there have consistently been cooked medium rare, and the shoestrings fries are delicious, if a bit bothersome to actually eat. They are so thin that they actually slip through my fingers and get stuck in the ketchup. The one time we did venture away from solely ordering the burger off the main menu, we started out with an order of the devils on horseback ($7), which is the amusing name for an appetizer of grilled figs wrapped in smoky bacon. The dish was rich and sumptuous—the fat figs absolutely bursting with flavor, and the bacon, a lovely salty companion. The figs seem to have been brushed with balsamic vinegar, which was a nice counterpoint to the overwhelming richness of the other flavors.
We also tried the ginger cake with spiced whipped cream, and it was utterly delectable—the cake was moist, light and gingery, and the whipped cream was the perfect - thick, and not too sweet. Our bartender recommended that I have it with the mulled wine, but to be honest I am a cheap date and was done after two Guinnesses. I kept remarking that I smelled the distinct aroma of cinnamon rolls baking somewhere, when Court pointed out that we were sitting in front of the mulling wine slow cooker. No wonder so many people order the stuff.
Hopefully, I will return to the Pig soon, and perhaps this time in warmer weather. I am already planning to make a special trip at lunch to try their Cubano Sandwich with Arugula Salad.