Peels: Downtown, Down-Home Food

By Kevin McGovern

Peels, opened two years ago by trendy Lower East Side tastemakers Taavo Somer and William Tigertt, is a glossy, two-story restaurant on the corner of East Second Street and Bowery.  Lined with white, well-detailed walls and decorated with rustic, chic wooden furniture, Peels and its beautiful, young staff ease you into a comfortable yet cool dining experience.  Though Peels taunts you with its décor and service, it almost ironically serves Southern soul food.

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Warm coffee from the local brewhouse La Colombe

Swept off of my feet and to my table by the welcoming and attractive waitress Christy, I quickly glanced at the menu.  On this particular, cold and rainy Monday, the Peels menu offered all those down-home classics that warm you, body and soul.  Flapjacks, oatmeal, eggs, bacon, and country ham fill the breakfast menu, reminding one of childhood.  And though Peels best selling and most renowned dish is its “Build-a-Biscuit” in which one can order a biscuit with all the fixings (eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, cheese, etc.), I opted for the shrimp and grits, and a cup of coffee.

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An order of shrimp and grits.

Almost instantly my coffee, bought from the nearby coffee house La Colombe, arrived.  As I poured my milk into my coffee, the strong, earthy smell floated into my nose and begged my to take a sip.  One big sip, possibly even a gulp, I was in coffee paradise.  The coffee was rich, yet not overpowering, smooth, yet not dull.

Soon after, my food arrived relatively quickly, especially considering the size of my party.  Arriving on a delicate, white bowl, my shrimp and grits looked quite appetizing.  A singular fried egg sat atop the grits, adorned with little shrimp and surrounded by a rich, brown sauce.

The shrimp and egg were impeccably cooked and seasoned, and paired with the beautifully smoky sauce, the food harmony was near-perfection.  Underneath the egg was luscious pile of grits, doused in the lovely sauced and filled with diced jalapenos and Tasso bacon. 

With a beautiful environment and equally comforting, yet flavorful food, Peels offer a balanced and enjoyable dining setting.  The food, though often simple and homely, evokes warm feelings of childhood that proper Southern cuisine should.  Quite simply, Peels is delicious and a recommended dining destination.

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