For an establishment that markets itself as “a regional American restaurant,” the only excuse for this Southern-style food being served in Manhattan is because it must have been run off by an angry mob of genuine Southerners. Fitting of the title? The hospitality.
There aren’t many layers to peel back at, well, Peels. When a dish is judged by its depth of flavor and texture, its breakfast menu is about as mysterious as a tumbler of water. The closest thing to discovery was a rousing game of ‘find the golden raisins’ in the oatmeal with brown sugar and golden raisins. Hint: I found 3. However, more could have been hiding within the mush of oats and water.
What is unsure is whether Peels mistakes layers of flavor with stacks of ingredients. The build-a-biscuit ordered with bacon, avocado, and cheese slices sandwiched in between each half—while each component is separately enjoyable—is a mechanical construction of foods that simply do not marry—or at least should be referred to couples therapy. At my table, Mackenzie Cash, a belle of Alabama, said the true test of a biscuit was if the bottom half crumbled. Did the biscuit at Peels, a recipe of Martha Stewart, earn her seal of approval? Yes, with a indecisive shoulder shrug/head shake combo.
My lifeline throughout the meal was cup of coffee after cup of coffee, and the wait staff kept them coming. Showing face with pitchers of water and pots of coffee in hand, neither my mug nor my glass was ever empty, and all refills were given with a smile and a “you’re welcome.” Great table-mates certainly helped too. Involved conversation served as a distraction from the anything-but-special plates, and by the time my fork came up empty, my tastebuds remained without stimulation.
The decor is as bland as the food, but I’m guessing they were aiming for understated. Palates of white and tan color the walls while homey furnishings grace the floors. Dining accessories invoke tables in the countryside. The assumption at Peels is that good company and quality service will make up for the lack of embellishment and dynamic-wanting taste. Filling in a space with customers and hoping for the best, customer satisfaction is as random as how the restaurant is rumored to have come by its name—tourists have said the owner opened a dictionary and pointed arbitrarily at a word, landing on ‘Peels.’
Reservations can only be held for parties made up of six or more people. Without one, a long line, sometimes wrapping around the block, awaits the non-early birds. Though the food makes me wonder why one would bother at all, early or not.
1 Star, Good
Peels, 325 Bowery, (646) 602-7015.
ATMOSPHERE: Southern-style food. Simple, warm, casual, and inviting. Windows provide a source of natural lighting.
SERVICE: Attentive, eager to please, and friendly.
SOUND LEVEL: Good, unless packed with loud patrons. Noise progresses with the day.
WINE LIST: Wide selection of American wines and moderately priced.
PRICE RANGE: $$
HOURS: Breakfast, seven days, 7:30 to 11 A.M.; lunch, seven days, 11 A.M. to 4 P.M.; weekend brunch, Saturday and Sunday, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.; late afternoon, seven days, 4 to 5 P.M.; dinner, seven days, 6 to 11:30 P.M.
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Access to first-floor dining room. Stairs to second level.