It’s that special time of year again.
In New York, there is a brief window of time where the weather is so incredibly beautiful it feels like you are breaking the law by eating indoors.
Luckily, on a day where I would be trudging through the city all day with meetings, a performance, and even a trip to the DMV, I had found myself in that brief window of time.
But I couldn’t sit any ol’ damn where. I needed to scope out the perfect eating outside on a bustling, Friday late afternoon in Manhattan spot.
Guidelines For Optimal Outdoor Dining:
1. A great view of the street for people watching.
Manhattan has some of the country’s most unique residents and they are all living on an island that is only two and a half miles wide. If you sit in a great spot long enough, the parade of the misfits and tourists can be one hell of a show.
2. Not too close to the street.
Though it is fun to sit in front of a great restaurant to leisurely dine and record your observations, sitting too close to the passersby can make it feel like you are sitting on a bench in the middle of a busy street. Some restaurants attempt to turn the extremely small plot of “land” (read: concrete) in front of their establishments into a patio when all they are doing is putting minuscule patio furniture on a highway. People walk in Manhattan like they drive everywhere else.
3. Not too much sun. But not too little either.
One of the best parts of dining outside in New York is the sunshine. There is so rarely a pleasant sunshine in the city. Sunshine tends to be either attempting (and most times failing) to provide some relief from the freezing temperatures, shining during a random down pour, baking you in the humidity, or magnifying the stench of garbage and urine. But when you catch a good sunshine, a pleasantly warm sunshine packaged with a delightfully subtle and temperate breeze, you must not stay inside.
So, I started walking from Herald Square (34th street and Broadway). I decided I would just walk up Broadway because it runs diagonally through the city and I had to eventually end my adventure at 72nd street and Broadway.
It was such a gorgeous day that the streets were swarming with people. Especially in the high traffic, highly annoying tourist areas like Herald Square and Times Square. These places give squares a bad name.
But once I emerged from the late 40’s/early fifties, hands and head aching from clutching my bags and furrowing my brows, the streets began to get a little less congested. Tourists tend not to realize that New York is more than Broadway shows, I ❤ NY t-shirt vendors, giant department stores, and Olive Garden.
I passed a few restaurants with outdoor seating. Too much sun. Too close to the people. Too much shade.
And finally I found one that was juuuuuuust right…..
The Smith. Right across from Lincoln Center.
It met all of the requirements.
The Smith was in a row of other restaurants with similar patio set ups but the other restaurants were taking their Lincoln Center adjacent location a little too seriously. I just wanted a simple, light dinner. Not a filet mignon.
Who am I kidding? If I could afford a filet mignon, I would order one.
I ordered a glass of wine to start off my people watching party of 1.
I will say the portion size left muuuuch to be desired but this Vina Vintisquero “Reserva” 2010 Carmenere from Colchagua, Chili was a very good wine. ($9)
Then I ordered the Mediterranean salad ($21). Or “Greek” salad. Cucumber, feta, red onion, chickpeas, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, Romaine lettuce, and a lemon dressing made it an incredibly ordinary Greek salad recipe that was anything but. I added some chicken for the extra boost of protein.
And, honestly, no exaggeration, it was the best Greek salad I have ever had. And it sure as hell better have been considering how much I paid for the thing.
There were just the right amounts of each ingredient to make each bite a “perfect bite.” The chicken lay through out the salad in perfectly tender, silky shreds. And there was just the right amount of lemon dressing to make it so the salad wasn’t dripping in dressing but was radiating it.
After I posted pictures of my Smith escapade, I received a text message from a friend saying, “Please tell me you got the blue cheese chips.”
“I didn’t…. :(,” I replied. “I was alone.”
“No excuse. I’ll go with you next time.”
So, I can say that I will absolutely be back to The Smith. After all, I have to.