By: Luis Ayala
It is said often that a picture is worth a thousand words, however, much is left un-said of what a first glance is worth. In a cosmopolis where much is done with skittish moves and impulsive urge, Manhattan is master at the art of first glance. The eyes of the New Yorker miss no one and nothing in their daily hustle, moving to and fro to examine every bit of quirk and every ounce of suspicion. The subway panhandler, the public yoga practitioner, the artsy college student, the fashion model, the street vendor, the tattoo artist, the Wall Street businessman, and of course, the eateries. A first glance could mean date or dump, friend or foe, trust or distrust and interestingly enough, mouthwatering or revolting. From the thick, overwhelming smoke of Halal on the corner of Union Square to the non-fragrant façade of the upscale brasserie, the exterior of the restaurant has to win the eye’s incentive and the mouth’s inclination. The Smith, located on Third Avenue in the East Village accomplishes just that.
Just past 10th street and a few feet before 11th, The Smith is a subtle coalition of details that distinguishes its flare for style as well as its take on traditional American dishes. The exterior is reminiscent of a unique locksmith design, the bricks are black while the door handles, borders, and exterior lighting are all made of black metal. As one walks inside, one cannot help but peruse the walls, whose white brick style tiling are adorned with black and white art photography. The ceiling a waxed wooden arrangement is in contrast to the floor, whose tiles are comparable with the vintage touch of a 70’s railroad apartment bathroom. The lighting, particularly in the morning is basic but dim enough to allow daylight to seep through the large, panel windows in the front of this two-floor restaurant. It is when you actually sit down that the antique inspired decorum becomes secondary and another comes into focus, the food.
As part of a group of sixteen other students, The Smith is seeing one of its largest groups of morning visitors. The waitress, who’s a bit frazzled by the crowd, serves sparkling and tap water accompanied by cheese biscuits. These warm biscuits are fresh and delectable, the warm cheddar inside perfectly melted. The menu, whose list of breakfast selections ranges from $2 (side of Cheddar Biscuit) to $9 (the Mushroom or Egg White Omelette) is short yet well equipped. One can opt for the “Lighter Fare” choosing between granola, oatmeal, fruit, or parfait, or can go sweet with their hearty Vanilla Bean French toast or strawberry waffles. Their BLT + E Sandwich, consisting of a fried egg, lettuce, tomato and apple smoked bacon on a croissant instead of bread nailed 4 key components. The egg was cooked to a perfect fry, the bacon was crisp not burnt, the croissant was fresh, and the homefries were made with sautéed onions for top-notch flavor. While the combination could have avoided the addition of tomato, and regular bacon would’ve worked better to balance multiple flavors, the preparation was well thought out and the presentation was exquisite. Another quick tip, to avoid overspending, spare the orange juice. $3 will get you nothing more than a shot and a half of freshly squeezed OJ, not enough to suffice food that feels portioned for two.
Service at The Smith was efficient at moments and lacking in others. While you will undoubtedly be served spinach, cheddar biscuits, and water while you wait, the waitress seemed unreceptive to more than she could handle. Depending on your server, service may vary but hospitality is certainly present. The Smith takes on risks with its variations of the typical American breakfast and brunch, as well with its décor, which even includes a vintage barber chair and photo booth downstairs with communal sinks outside the restrooms. The Smith in essence is all but boring, far from cliché, yet close to home. The Smith is a breakfast experience.