Restaurant review by Amy Cavanaugh
During a recent breakfast at the Winchester, I sat on the bar side eating a yeasty, sweet liege waffle while watching employees get a serious lesson in making drinks using beans from local roasters Bow Truss and Metric. At dinner, I had cocktail using amari I had never heard of and a gorgeous plate of arctic char. The Winchester may be a neighborhood restaurant, an all-day spot geared toward Ukrainian Village residents, but it’s a neighborhood restaurant with ambition.
That ambition sometimes feels at odds with the casual space. Silverware comes wrapped in paper napkins. Half the seats are small, uncomfortable, backless stools. The menu may suggest you want to spend all day there, drinking coffee and typing on your laptop, but trust me, on those stools, you do not. The group sitting next to us at dinner had come straight from the gym and was wearing workout clothes. The casualness is especially at odds with the price: even though portions are small, breakfast for two cost more than $40, while dinner for two was $100. I’ll shell out $100 for a dinner date, but I’d like a cloth napkin, or at the very least to feel like I’m at more than a coffee shop.
Led by chef Greg Bastien (Tavernita), the restaurant, from owners Chris Pappas and Dan Sheehy, both former restaurant managers, opened in February for breakfast and brunch, and later added lunch and dinner service. Then they added cocktails from Peter Vestinos, formerly of Sepia, who now puts together restaurant cocktail programs. The Winchester is serving food from 7am to 10pm, so it’s possible to have every meal there.
I didn’t have every meal at the Winchester, but of the two I did have—breakfast and dinner—I liked breakfast more. During the daylight hours, the white brick walls, light woods and green plants make the space feel bright and welcoming, even though I was there on a rainy day. The waffles, which have become the restaurant’s signature item, are caramelized and served at room temperature. The waffle isn’t big enough to have on its own for breakfast, so get one to have with coffee, then order the avocado toast, a food that is having a moment. Four pieces of toast come served with a mound of mashed avocado with peppercorns, grapefruit and sliced chilies—it’s basically a more refined guacamole. The breakfast sandwich, which features eggs, cheddar, kale and peppers, is pretty small for $8.25 (at brunch, it’s $11 and comes with a side of potatoes), and uses a cheese that’s so strong it overwhelms the other flavors.
At dinner, you can order from the café menu, which consists of salads and sandwiches and is available starting at 11am, or the dinner menu, which is more focused on entrees, the most expensive of which is a $28 steak. We started with a dish of mixed olives with three tiny slices of baguette and a green bean salad, with maitake mushroom and pickled and crispy shallots. Tossed in sesame vinaigrette and sprinkled with black sesame seeds, the crisp salad was like a lighter, Asian-inspired green bean casserole.
One of my favorite dishes at Tavernita is Greg’s Meatballs, Bastien’s recipe for beef and pork meatballs smothered with romesco sauce, so I beelined for the bucatini and meatballs at the Winchester. It’s a bowl of pasta lightly dressed with tomato sauce and few meatballs, which are big and spicy, but almost ethereal in texture. While the pasta was a little too al dente, the meatballs are delicious. So is the arctic char, a lovely piece of fish, set atop parsnip puree, with a little salad of arugula and nubs of cipollini onion.
There are six cocktails, plus a rotating punch, each of which are $10. They match the food at the Winchester—simple but well-executed—and include the Cold Stare, a mezcal and cold-pressed coffee cocktail, made bitter with amaro; the Bittered Buck, an amaro Moscow Mule with a bit of nuttiness from orgeat; and a daily punch, on my visit made with gin and rooibos, but dominated by anise-y pastis. Like everything at the Winchester, they’re good, but their simplicity makes the price feel steep and just a little too expensive to make the restaurant your regular neighborhood spot.