Friday, November 12, 2010

Tavern on Jane

I have a completely irrational fear of revolving doors.  Or at least you may think it's irrational.  I don't.  Have you ever seen The Godfather?  Or this epic YouTube video?  Bad things can go down in revolving doors.  I'm just sayin'.  I'm also afraid of all the germs in the subway.  I'm not a crazy germaphobe, but I highly recommend carrying hand sanitizer everywhere you go in the city.  A friend of mine recently witnessed a woman on the subway spit in her hands and rub them together to moisturize them.  I'm sure at some point later she grabbed a hand rail.  You don't want to be her sloppy seconds.  Trust me.

Tavern on Jane
31 8th Ave
(between Jane St & 12th St)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 675-2526

When I first saw the seemingly simple menu for Tavern on Jane matched up with 4 stars on Yelp, and comments that called it a "favorite" restaurant in New York City, I wondered what made it so special.  In all of New York, why was this restaurant I had never heard of so popular?  Well, first of all, the exterior is designed in a Tudor style and adorned with Christmas colors... red door and green trim.  It definitely doesn't give off the vibe I was expecting.  Doesn't look trendy at all.  But I guess it doesn't have to.  The interior is simply that of a tavern... a bar, cozy atmosphere, a perfect setting on a chilly evening.  Perhaps that's why people love it so much, it's simple, filled with comfort, and offering a higher caliber meal than what is expected at a typical tavern.

Photo courtesy
The specials are written in bright colors on a mirror, while tables are covered in white paper, cups of crayons invite diners to explore their artistic side.  But these crayons are for adults.  No coloring books here.  No kiddie menu.  This is a tavern after all.  Playful, yes.  For children, no.

I met up with Jessie from Simply Scrumptious for dinner here.  She has taken a hiatus from blogging, but I assure you all she'll be back soon!!  She also offered to bring her DSLR camera and take pictures for me of our food.  Thanks, Jessie!  We started off with the fried oysters appetizer.  They were coated with a crunchy cornmeal crust and served with a Cajun tartar sauce.  We only wished there were more of these tiny fried treats.  For $13 they didn't give you a whole lot (they're oysters after all), but they sure were good!

Fried Oysters with Cajun Tartar Sauce $13 
For entrées, Jessie ordered a buffalo burger with Swiss cheese and I had one of the specials, Basa filet fish tacos (basically Asian catfish).  Her burger was cooked about medium to medium-rare, but wasn't very juicy.  Buffalo meat is lean and does not yield exceptionally juicy results in a burger, so I can accept that as an excuse.  I do wish it had more seasoning, however, and the fries were simply atrocious.  They were definitely hand-cut as advertised but had no real crispy exterior.  No contrast of exterior crunch and interior fluffiness that one seeks in a perfect French fry.  I imagine they were fried once instead of twice (as they should be to yield properly crispy fries), and tasted like the fries my grandmother used to make.  That's not a compliment.  Her fries weren't that good.  That is about the only negative thing I have to say, the fries just did not match up to the expectations from the rest of the meal.  

On the other hand, my fish tacos were delicious!  The fish was perfectly moist and juicy, nicely seasoned, served on a make-your-own platter with really good guacamole, pico de gallo, pepper Jack cheese, shredded lettuce, and a side of 4 soft flour tortillas for wrapping.  I was completely and utterly satisfied with my choice.  I would have expected a satisfying taco dish (regardless of its authenticity) at a number of other restaurants, but this tavern definitely makes some mean fish tacos!  I normally would never put cheese on my fish tacos, but honestly these were great exactly as they were.  Definitely two thumbs up for these babies.  Not so much for the fries and somewhat under-seasoned burger.

Buffalo Burger with Swiss Cheese, Hand-Cut Fries, and Cole Slaw $14 + $1 for Cheese

Basa Filet Tacos - Shredded Lettuce, Jalapeno Jack Cheese, Pico de Gallo, and Guacamole $17 

Overall, I think the prices are maybe a tad too high for the setting. I realize they are offering a more gourmet menu than a traditional tavern or bar would, and it is located in the West Village so I suppose I should just chalk it up to the side effects of high rent. Would I call this my "favorite" restaurant in NY?  No.  Would I make it my neighborhood hangout if I lived down the street?  Very likely.  The staff is friendly, and Tavern on Jane really offers an unpretentious, un-West Village atmosphere with (overall) good food.  Feel free to stop in and make yourself at home, but skip the French fries.


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