A History Lesson and a Vegetarian Feast Await at Nighthawks

Ravioli burrata at Nighthawks | Tara Mahadevan
Ravioli burrata at Nighthawks | Tara Mahadevan

The new West Village restaurant Nighthawks (679 Greenwich Street, 646-329-6390) was inspired by Edward Hopper's famous 1942 painting Nighthawks, but is it possible that this building was actually the setting of the painting? Owner and chef Fikret Uslu says there's a decent chance.

"My lawyers say that it's a 95 percent chance that it's this location," he says. "The reason we don't say it's 100 percent is because history says there's another location. But this location matches his painting."

Hopper said his painting was inspired by a diner on Greenwich Avenue, and sources once pointed to a building that has since been demolished. The New York Times debunked that location — it was the site of a gas station in the 1940s — and offered a theory that there was no single diner; the painting depicts a scene that Hopper more or less made up.

Still, Uslu channeled the painting for the interior, and he tried to match his restaurant to the painting, keeping the original floors and bar, which is still the same cherry wood color as depicted in the painting. "I met with the landlord, whose father had the restaurant and diner in the 1940s," says Uslu. "He explained everything about this location, and the bar and floor and everything."

Regardless of your interest in art history, you can find a good vegetarian meal here. Uslu is an expert in vegetarian cooking; he previously worked on the Royal Caribbean cruise line, where he was in charge of the sugar-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian foods. His is a continental kitchen, serving dishes from across Europe, including Italy, France, and Turkey. Uslu himself is Turkish.

Look for the zucchini pancakes ($9), or mucver, a traditional Turkish dish that features a mixture of zucchini, feta cheese, dill, and flour. The pancakes are deep-fried until the edges are crispy and garnished with garlic yogurt and tomato sauce. The ravioli burrata ($17) is a simple and subtle dish. While burrata cheese is an unusual choice for ravioli, the combination of mozzarella and cream gives the filling a nice, soft texture. It's matched to a nuanced sweet and creamy red-pepper sauce.

Zucchini pancakes at Nighthawks | Tara Mahadevan
Zucchini pancakes at Nighthawks | Tara Mahadevan



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