Walking uphill on Smith Street leads to resto gone downhill.

My girlfriend puts up with some wackiness from me from time to time – for instance, when we leave the house without a destination in mind, I’m prone to wandering from restaurant to restaurant feeling dissatisfied with the posted menu.  Smith Street is probably the worst offender – wandering from Bergen Street southwards, I can consistently say, is one of the least satisfying potential-meal walks I know of.  Besides the excellent Boerum Hill Food Company, the slightly-expensive Bar Tabac, and the Dominican El Nuevo Cibao, there aren’t a lot of reasonably-priced places that ENTICE.

I can’t be the only one who’s noticed this.  In the past six months, a plethora of closings have occurred: Cholita (allegedly for health violations), Tabouleh, Village 247, and lately, Banania Café have all fallen under the axe.  I’d say that places like Rosemary Restaurant (is that the name?) and Union Smith Café are probably next, because they never seem to have anyone in them.

With Union Smith Café, I can probably see why.  Dining there last night was an experience that I’m not sure I’d repeat, and not just because of the food.  The hostess had a plastic-like fake smile and seemed to speak from between clenched teeth, and the waitress seemed totally nonplussed by our food choices, and seemed moderately insulted when we declined to order any of the $6.50 desserts, which she went out of her way to describe as “delicious,” in a rather strange instance of overselling.  I don’t know, maybe it was a bad night?  Not the way to promote a return visit, though.

Perhaps we should have taken her reticence as a warning, because neither of our pastas exceeded the Olive Garden’s quality level.  My orecchiette with pancetta and peas ($9.50) were swimming in a layering of cream sauce and what seemed like it ought to be pesto, based on the color.  Sadly, there was not enough flavor to determine its actual content.  The tiny chunks of pancetta offered a little fatty smokiness, but not enough.

My girlfriend’s gnocchi ($10.50) also came with two sauces, side-by-side: one red sauce, which I’d swear was canned, and one actually flavorful pesto.  The cloves of garlic we crunched into made us happy, but the soggy-ish gnocchi didn’t.

One perk of dining there on Tuesday – every bottle of wine was 50% off.  We opted for the a half-bottle of French white (sorry, wine fans – I forgot to note what it was, but it was the only half-bottle available), which ran us only $11.  I can see coming here with a big group of wine drinkers, I guess, but if the food’s no good, what’s the difference between drinking the bottles in a restaurant and drinking them at home?  The big table?  The onion focaccia that seemed on the border of stale, with an olive oil/balsamic dip featuring too-old vinegar?  I digress.

I’m kind of sorry I didn’t try the hamburger, because my girlfriend said it had gotten a good mark in someone’s book.  I doubt, though, whether it would have impressed me, having eaten Corner Bistro the night before.  

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3 Comments

Filed under NYC

3 responses to “Walking uphill on Smith Street leads to resto gone downhill.

  1. enjil

    My partner and I tried Union-Smith for the first time last week – both the pappardelle and the fish and chips were barely mediocre. We’ll definitely not go back. Our waiter was nice, though.

  2. “barely mediocre.” I like it.

  3. Anonymous

    Well what entices someone is purely subjective, but I like that new little vietnamese sandwich shop on Bergen, and my new greatest love is the $10.50 late-night steak sandwich and glass of wine special at Robin de Bois.

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