BlackBook Goes ‘On’ The Grid At New Great Jones Distillery Hotspot
While some may have bought into the tired old “New York is dead” rhetoric, those of us in the know knew that was never going to be the case. Sure, the city took a big hit, having been the epicenter of our COVID nightmare in the early days of the pandemic; and it showed, and continues to show, in certain parts of town. But when did we start judging New York for its complexity?
Nowhere is NYC’s heartbeat more palpable than in its dining rooms; and while, sadly, plenty of our most beloved places closed down in 2020 – farewell, Lucky Strike – and 2021, it seems that just as many have recently opened, or rebranded. We’ll even risk arguing that Gotham’s finest foodie days are still ahead. Likely the only thing impeding an exceptional dining experience in any part of the city right now might be one’s ability to dole out the dosh in these financially uncertain times. (For now, we’ll spare the diatribe on income inequality and food deserts.)
New restaurants come in all types, of course; but it does seem that the word twee could be employed as a zeitgeisty summation these days. (Verily, the word could be used in an account of the culture in general.) Indeed, the preponderance of preciousness has been a thorn in our side for quite awhile now (see: Brooklyn Bar Menu Generator). And so we were more than thrilled to indulge in the glaring oppositeness of new NoHo hotspot The Grid.
Housed on the ground floor of the also new-ish whiskey distillery / bar / event space the Great Jones Distilling Co., The Grid shares DNA with its host; and let’s face it, no one has ever described massive copper stills as twee. The opulent, high-ceilinged, dark-wood-paneled space is a throwback not only to the jazz age, but also to the 1990s, when life was considerably less self-conscious, thank you Instagram. Indeed the joviality of our dining room neighbors meant that we had to raise our voices on occasion – and we kind of loved the feisty, festive vibe in the air, especially at this time of year.
It bills itself as a New York joint, the name referring to the grid-like layout of its streets, which is represented in a large map on a main wall; and one could certainly imagine consummate Manhattanites Don Draper or Gordon Gekko holding court in one of its leather booths. Keeping it all very local, the menu focuses on ingredients sourced from area farms (‘From Upstate to Your Plate” goes the manifesto). Adam Raksin, Exec Chef extraordinaire, explains it best: “Menu items like the spent grain butter, using leftover grain from producing the whiskeys, to the Great Jones Bourbon Washed Peggy – a triple cream, camembert style cheese washed and aged in the Great Jones Straight Bourbon – showcase what our culinary program is all about: local ingredients executed at an elevated level that keep our whiskeys central to the experience.”
And a chilly autumn evening really does call for experiences with whiskey at the center.
The food was rich and hearty, an appetizer of Black Dirt Applejack Braised Bacon w/ Creamy Polenta could have made for a lite meal; likewise an “accompaniment” of Chiocciole Mac & Cheese not only tantalized at the table but lasted for two more days as a takeaway snack. The Grid’s entrees are comfortably familiar without being rote: our small but completely satisfying Crispy Skin Ora King Salmon was elegantly dressed in a saffron mussel emulsion, the Prime NY Strip was accompanied by duck fat confit potatoes, which is a very Anglophilic way of flying in the face of calorie counting. The Burger also came with Great Jones Bourbon and Bacon Jam – and obviously nothing more need be said about that. Except maybe…”yum.”
As might be expected, the cocktail list was heavy on the products of the upstairs still, with Great Jones bourbons and ryes put into service of particularly excellent juleps, sours, and old fashioneds. (If a skinny margarita is your thing, you’ll just have to go elsewhere.) Desserts also benefited from a slug or two of hootch – to wit, the Cocoa Frappe with bourbon and dark chocolate. And not that we actually needed any more of anything…but we finished with a tasting flight of five truly exquisite samples of the brown liquid gold.
So after such a long period of primarily home-cooked meals (obviously, bourbon tasting flights have not been a feature of our typical veggie burger nights in), decadent dinners such as we had at The Grid are just the treat we need right now to propel us into much needed holiday cheer. Perhaps it’s best here to borrow an axiom from the great contemporary philosopher Keith Richards, who said that the reason he made it through the ’70s was that he only indulged in high quality gear – and the food & drink here is unquestionably worth every single calorie. Or…maybe we just had a really great time.