Restaurant of the Summer 2014

BarPrimi_Fioredi Carciofi
[Photo by Daniel Krieger/Eater]

Everyone knows that Charlie Bird was the Restaurant of the Summer for New York City in 2013. So who wears the crown in 2014?

Each restaurant of the summer contender shares a few key characteristics. First, it opens for business sometime in the spring or early summer, no later than July 1. Second, it’s got a design and vibe that feels like summer, and ideally even a certain take on a certain kind of summer. Third, delicious food. And finally, it must be the kind of place you find yourself going back to without really thinking about it.

Back in June, I had a great dinner at The Clam on Hudson, a seafood restaurant from Market Table’s Mike Price. But I didn’t find myself going back. The first time I went to Team Carmellini’s Bar Primi on The Bowery, though, I knew I’d be back again. And I was, hitting it up on consecutive Monday/Tuesday/Mondays, three straight weeks. It took until the second time there to learn that the the dish to order is the Fiore di Carciofi (above), of which Eater critic Ryan Sutton wrote, “Contemplate the artichokes. Lamboglia folds the meaty vegetable into a pudding-like mixture of mascarpone and eggs, pipes it into a long tube of pasta, bends it like Play-Doh and finishes the affair with smoked bacon. It is essentially what lasagna would taste like if it were shaped like a pinwheel and prepared by a chef with a Michelin-star, an accolade that Carmellini is long overdue for.”

Bar Primi took over the old Peels space, which seems appropriate insofar as there was perhaps never a more disappointing restaurant in recent downtown dining history than Peels. The old Curbed office was a few blocks away, so we were there on opening day, savoring the biscuit program, and again soon after when they rolled out a fried chicken sandwich you could carry away in a bag. But over time, the issues accumulated: surly staff, inconsistent food, and, most oddly, the fact that Michael Wolff was sitting at the counter most every morning I went in for coffee.

The upstairs room of Peels, though, was always gorgeous, and it’s basically the same vibe now at Bar Primi, with the bar slightly reconfigured. It’s a great summery room, airy and bright. And it’s got a great chef, obviously; worth noting that on my three-week Monday/Tuesday/Monday run, AC was in the kitchen each time. All of which helps to make Bar Primi the Restaurant of the Summer 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 9.22.58 AM
[Photo by Daniel Krieger/Eater]

But in a twist, Summer 2014 in Manhattan features a second, equally worthy, restaurant of the summer. It’s Claudette, a new restaurant on Lower Fifth Avenue from Carlos Suarez. I’m a regular at Rosemary’s, Suarez’s joint on West 10th. Claudette’s a harder place to be a regular but one hell of a great place for a summer dinner. In a genius move, Suarez ripped off the old greenhouse that extended onto Fifth Avenue and handicapped restaurants like Cru that once occupied this space. Now, with the tall doors thrown open to Fifth Avenue, it’s a totally different place. The menu here is Mediterranean by way of the south of France (get the chicken tagine or fresh fish). All of which helps to make Claudette the Second Restaurant of the Summer 2014.

And now, without further ado, onward to fall.

  • fred wilson

    I’m loving having a new regular read. What a great post. My only issue with Primi is I can’t hear in their. Great line about Peels. Never liked that place

    • Lockhart Steele

      Thanks Fred! Three days in!