The Black Derby
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Heading down the small flight of stairs into the warmly-lit Black Derby feels a little like going down the rabbit hole in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland”: like you’ve uncovered some magical secret.
An attentive bartender will be glad to help you navigate the cocktail menu, which lists the names of cocktails without descriptions. The signature drink, The Black Derby ($14), is a bourbon cocktail with molasses, grapefruit and cherries. The restaurant also offers a French martini made with vodka, Chambord and pineapple if you’re in the mood for something sweet. Opt for a glass of wine ($11–$16) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with a heavy pour.
In the adjacent dining room, the scent of pommes frites will have your stomach growling before you even slide into one of the plush green booths. With black-and-white photos featuring black derby hats and New York scenes lining the walls, the restaurant has an old-timey feel that doesn't go overboard. It's as if you’re at your great aunt’s for a dinner—if your great aunt’s playlist covered everything from Sam Cooke to Modest Mouse to Frank Ocean.
Of all the appetizers, you'll want to start with the lamb sliders ($15). The layers of medium-rare meat, creamy goat cheese, harissa mayo and mint-apple chutney blend together nicely, and the chutney is just citrus-y enough to cut the overall richness. The bourbon maple glaze and baked apples on the double cut bacon ($14) are sweet and tasty, but the pickled vegetables steal the show, adding a salty balance to an otherwise one-dimensional dish.
For mains, the signature burger ($16) is thick enough to yield leftovers, while the open-faced parm ($18) tops a chicken cutlet with bolognese sauce and burrata. In another textural feat, the meat on the Faroe Island salmon filet ($26) melts in your mouth, while the skin remains nice and crispy. The steak frites ($27) arrive perfectly tender on the inside, charred on the outside, but the au poivre sauce makes the dish a little too salty.
Comfort foods like house-baked chocolate cookies with milk and apple crisp with vanilla gelato dot the dessert menu (both $10). Go for the espresso chocolate mousse with whipped cream ($10) if you’ve managed to save room; the thick, silky mousse comes densely packed into a chocolate cup.
The Black Derby may not get experimental, but it delivers rock-solid versions of classics you already love. Perhaps the bigger success of this cozy New York bistro is that it offers reasonably priced, generous portions of good food without losing any of the sophistication associated with the upscale neighborhood. And getting your bang for your buck in the West Village is definitely as special as anything Alice found in Wonderland.
BY TIME OUT COMMUNITY REVIEWER: CLAUDIA FISHER
310 W 4th St
|Transport:||Subway: L, A, C, E to 14th St; L to Eighth Ave; 1 to Christopher St–Sheridan St|
|Price:||$30 and under; All major credit cards accepted|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Wed 5m–12:30am; Thu–Fri 5pm–1am; Sat 10am–3pm, 5pm–1am; Sun 10am–3pm, 5pm–12:30am|
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