An Early Taste of the East Pole, Now Open on the UES
"This is basically supposed to be the Fat Radish on the Upper East Side," a bartender told us at the East Pole last night after he'd cleared away the last of our dishes and caught a moment to breathe on the other side of the dinner crush that had kept the bar three deep for the last two hours. The neighbors are clearly buying it: The UES's distinct mix of suits, empty nesters, and model-like women looked like they'd already made the place their home.
Fat Radish owners Ben Towill and Phil Winser teamed up Brinkley's proprietors Tom and Anthony Martignetti to build this restaurant, taking over a garden-level space at 133 East 65th Street that last held a vodka bar. They gave the address a vaguely nautically themed overhaul, installing a marble-topped, wood-surfaced bar up front and clubby black banquettes in the dining room. Space upstairs, the bartender explained, would eventually function as both more seating and private dining.
The seasonal produce-driven menu is reminiscent of the downtown spot, too: If you've spent time at the latter, you'll find the Scotch egg, the grilled cheese with pickles, the bacon cheeseburger, and the kale caesar at the younger sibling all look familiar, and they're being turned out under the supervision of chef Nicholas Wilber, who helmed the kitchen at the Fat Radish. The rest of the menu follows suit, too: Divided into snacks, starters, and mains, the list traipses through peak produce season with homages to heirloom tomatoes, heirloom beans, peaches, corn, and summer cucumbers.
Highlights, if you're thinking about popping in to check it out in these early days, include the orecchiette--the button-shaped pasta is currently paired to smoked tomato, piquant fennel sausage, and verdant basil--and the beetroot hummus, a maroon dip served with slices of raw vegetables and crispy beetroot chips, We also liked the heirloom bean salad, which pitted string beans against crackly pork belly in a bright vinaigrette (though, it was one of the few times in our lives when we thought the pork was actually unnecessary). We'd skip dessert until the kitchen has a bit more time to get the kinks worked out--the ice cream sundae had an off-putting grainy texture that our bartender said was salt (we're not totally convinced that's true--and we should note, too, that demonstrative of his good service, he removed it from our check).
We'd also make a reservation: We took our chances with the bar, and it meant perching like cats of prey, ready to attack anyone around us for the fresh meat of freed seats. If you're just drinking, though--and you'll find a solid list of old world-heavy wine, craft beer, and seasonal cocktails to quench your thirst--that front space is a cozy place to be.
Heirloom bean salad
Ice cream sundae
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