Southern Escape in the Bowery

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The upstairs bar and seating area, featuring our waitress, Christy hard at work.

by Elizabeth Smith

On the Monday of New York Fashion Week, I found myself stuck with an uninvited guest – February rain. Seeking refuge and a warm meal I had heard rave reviews about, I entered a haven for Southern comfort at 325 Bowery. Adjacent to the Bowery Hotel, the trendy neighborhood was not deterred by weather, but I was eager to let my umbrella rest. Peels restaurant was not as crowded as expected at 9 in the morning, but the kind, attractive staff promptly pointed me up the stairs to join my large party.

Entering Peels was almost like a time warp into a very different place. Although I have been to plenty of trendy farm-to-table eateries that fill the same niche, this one already stood apart. Reminiscent of a Southern parlor, the wooden floors and high, ornate ceilings were a pleasure for my eye while waiting for my entire group to arrive. The corner location allowed for large windows on two of the expansive walls. There were also accents of exposed brick framed by white, and scattered mirrors surrounding us. The circular lighting fixtures bore elaborate designs and remained within the brick, white, glass, green and wooden theme. While the seating was extensive and the details varied, Peels still managed to emanate an overwhelmingly homey feel – if your home is a grandly renovated barn. Gigantic plants blocked my view of the trees outside the windows, furthering the idea of city escape and the long, fully stocked bar made me think of more crowded times.

A party of over 20, I was one of the lucky two to share a menu, which was limited for breakfast and in the style of a 50’s diner. Featuring bakery items, healthy eats, biscuits, dou

ghnuts or elaborate eggs accompanied by pricey alcoholic drinks or coffee, tea or juice, I asked the waitress to guide me in my decision. Christy, the friendly blonde, was happy to oblige and boasted that the biscuits had been featured “on Martha Stewart.” I ordered a Build-A-Biscuit, hoping to recreate the wonderful experiences I recently had in Nashville at some other famous biscuit spots. Although it looked lonely on a small plate with no sides, the biscuit was very filling and delicious, overflowing with eggs and crumbling with every bite. The jams are also noteworthy (although you can only choose one flavor) and muffins were a hit among some of my fellow diners. The off-brand condiments on every table seemed to be from the pantry of your excessively organic aunt- but I cannot deny their flavorful taste and kitsch labels. With a very large serving staff, our drinks were never empty and our plates promptly removed.

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The biscuit I built

Christy also informed us that the restaurant has been in business for a little over two years and that the name isn’t supposed to mean anything, a mystery the owner preferred. After my experience, I find it to be a unique dining experience in contrast to many similar American-style breakfast joints in the area and a fun homage to Southern grandeur. I recommend you go to Peels for yourself and find out what it means to you.

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Here is the downstairs seating and take-away counter.

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