By Katherine Faw Morris
Eating healthy is not always fun. Lentils are the librarian to pizza’s punk rocker. But not feeling like a bloated grease elephant is super exciting, too, and if I have to eat my brussels sprouts I’d rather it be at Back Forty, the stylin’ new farmhouse shaping up Avenue B.
The offspring of the grown up folks over at Savoy, Back Forty is bringing up the caboose of its parents’ slow, seasonal, local train. Named for the unplanted quarter of a 160-acre homestead where farmers go to get wasted after baling hay all day, the austere white and wood space is a casual spot to get tipsy on Loisaida Slings’cachaca, ginger beer, and chipotle’after formatting spreadsheets all day. And Chef de Cuisine Shanna Pacifico’s well-edited menu is more than up for the task of satiating that growling cubicle tummy demanding red Maine shrimp and bacon beignets, pronto.
Parsed into five sections, the menu holds down the dirt-free barnyard spectrum, from lardo mashed potatoes to a grass-fed burger with homemade ketchup and pickles. A cranberry bean salad, selected “From the Garden“ sector, was a good-sized toss of dark gray, fleshy beans with zesty radicchio and creamy spice-rolled chunks of feta. The shaved fennel and pumpkin salad, drizzled with a lemon turmeric vinaigrette, was appropriately autumnal even if my tank top and flip-flops were way not. While beluga lentils also lived up to their namesake’the slippery black pellets appearing for all the world like a bowl of fine caviar, only revealing their true bean, non-scary fish egg nature upon tasting. Live from “The Core“ section, a whole grilled Catskill trout was herbed out with cilantro salsa verde and infused with that real-life lake taste that always seems to be the missing component of my frozen fish stick addiction. And a buttered Challah roll, split down the middle and overstuffed with an explosion of blue crab meat salad, accompanied by a side of rosemary dusted French fries, was virtuously lip-smacking and filling in a way that Mickey D’s filet-o-fish combo may, alas, never be. Back Forty, with its recycled pine bar, farm tool wall decorations, and landscape mural, is deep in the urban pastoral fetish clean sweeping our still (sort of) grungy city, but leaning back post-apple pie at the long wooden communal table, I did feel somewhere in my fast food ravaged gut a strong urge to take up with the health Mafia. Which is all, no doubt, part of their master plan.
190 Avenue B (E. 11th and 12th Sts.) 212-388-1990 East Village