Two of Top Chef’s blondest, Southernest contestants, Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth were making the rounds at Root & Bone‘s opening party last night. The duo are at the helm of the newest Southern dining establishment in the old Mama’s Food Shop space.
The feel of the new restaurant is airy and the color palette dominated by faded whitewashed wood. A sign hanging above the entrance to the main dining room reads “No Smokin’.” But thankfully, that’s where the aw-shucks Dixie-Tootin’ ends. Nothing else necessarily screams South of the Mason Dixon Line: the decor consists of iridescent hanging bulbs, the bar menu is handwritten on a chalkboard, and a mosaic of trinkets, plants, and books drowns out the door to the WC. There’s an open window into the kitchen so you can peek in on the action, and probably make some awkward, unfocused eye contact with a cook if you feel so inclined.
Keep in mind the food at the preview party was gratis, so you’ll have to wait for the Underground Gourmet to drop in if you want clinical objectivity. But we’ll tell you this much: the traditional Southern fare was surprisingly light (relatively speaking, people). Whereas even “fancy” Southern food can induce that overwhelming I AM DOUSED IN BUTTER OK feeling, the food here isn’t afraid to be herbaceous, spicy, and citrusy while maintaining its classic Southern richness.
Root & Bone is a totally apt name then, with the restaurant’s equal emphasis on carnivorous delights and unexpectedly rustic veggie dishes. A meat-eating guest correspondent favored the Lamb Chop most of all, describing it as “succulent” and “apolitical– it has no business being caught up in the fray.” But he also gave one enthusiastic thumb up to the fried chicken, though the saltiness was a concern.
Guests were also given the opportunity to sample a few drinks from Root & Bone’s cocktail menu. The Bumble N’ Bone was a frothy delight, with gin, lemon, maple, egg white, and black pepper, served up. And then there was the Florida Old Fashioned with a hint of orange and a homemade Slim Jim swizzle stick that resembled nothing of the packaged, gas station meat twigs we all know and love.
Root & Bone also set up an adjacent takeout section (“The Little Root Market) where guests can either order take away, or put their order in for lunch and then take a seat in the dining room.
When Root & Bone officially opens on Monday, the lunch menu (a variety of $11 sandwiches) will be served all day until the “Supper Menu” arrives the following week. That menu will be priced predictably for Manhattan ($7-$13 for small plates, with entrees priced at $14-$26 and all the way up to $46 if you can manage to eat an entire chicken + cheddar cheese waffle + whiskey maple syrup, it’s cool we won’t judge).
See the full menu below.
Root & Bone, 200 East 3rd St. at Ave. B, 646-682-7076