Innocuously tucked into a corner in the famous Greenwich Village neighborhood in lower Manhattan, almost hidden in plain sight, sits a restaurant that reflects the artistic and bohemian vibe that the neighborhood is known for. It blends in so well that you have to know what you’re looking for in order to see it. There are no lights or signs declaring that this is a place to consume food and drink. The only outward indication of its true identity is its namesake hanging above the door – a spotted pig.
The Spotted Pig is objectively one of the best restaurants in New York City, and has been for quite a while. The owner and chef, April Bloomfield, is very well known and respected in the city as well as around the world. She has been featured on the Mind of a Chef television series, and as her flagship restaurant, The Spotted Pig has been nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2005 as well as Outstanding Restaurant in 2015 and 2016.
The Spotted Pig is one of the very few restaurants in New York City that I have made a return trip to. Both times that I’ve been to The Spotted Pig, there has been a wait (20 – 45 minutes). However, if you leave your phone number with the host, they’ll text you once a table is ready, allowing you to explore one of New York Cities great neighborhoods right outside the door for a little bit. They even have a neighborhood map on their site with other close places to visit while you wait, because they’re great and they think of everything! They do take reservations, but do not seat tables until the entire party is present.
The interior of the restaurant is fairly small, but they creatively maximize their space wherever they are able (the restaurant surprisingly seats about 100 people). There is an upstairs portion of the restaurant with a second bar as well as additional seating. The decor is eclectic and quirky with a subtle overarching theme of pigs. There are pictures of pigs, statues of pigs, pig toys, decorative pig string lights lining the walls, pigs everywhere you look. That being said, everything works together to create a casual, comfortable, and… visually entertaining dining space.
The Spotted Pig is probably most well known for their Burger, which is a chargrilled burger with Roquefort cheese and is served with shoestring cut garlic herb fries, homemade ketchup and mustard. This burger always seems to be in the national “best burger” discussion and after having tried one, it is deserving of the acknowledgement. The burger is basically an umami and savory flavor bomb. The burger itself is very simple and uncomplicated when it comes to ingredients (I mean, it’s really just bread, meat, and cheese. That’s it.), but the amount of flavor and technique they pack into such a simple burger is what makes it impressive and special. I did not think that I could possibly take down the mountain of shoestring fries that were served alongside the burger, so I gladly shared them with my table. But, they’re the type of fries that you find yourself absentmindedly eating while chatting and soon enough (sadly) you reach down and realize that they’re all gone.
I had a friend recommend getting the Gnudi, which were filled with sheep’s milk ricotta and served with brown butter and crispy sage. I had never heard of gnudi before, and they came recommended, so I was happy that one of my friends was as interested in them as I was and ordered them (because I had already predetermined that I was going to get the burger). The gnudi were very rich (like, highest tax bracket rich). It was almost difficult to finish the entire plate, but at the same time, they are so delicious that it’s difficult not to finish the entire plate. The gnudi are bursting with flavor that explodes once you close your mouth. I’m pretty sure that when my friend let me try one, all I could say for the next two minutes was, “whoa”.
The Market Salad with aged pecorino and pomegranate was sharp. The vinaigrette was delicious and had the perfect amount of acid to complement the salad and anything else ordered (or to like, I don’t know, cut the richness of the gnudi or the umami of the burger for example). The salad was fresh, flavorful, well composed, and a welcome addition to the meal. It wasn’t the star of the table, but was probably the most important aspect of the lunch.
I’d feel comfortable sending anyone and everyone to The Spotted Pig for any occasion. Grabbing a quick lunch? The Spotted Pig. Going on a first date? The Spotted Pig. Sunday Funday Brunch? The Spotted Pig. Celebrating a graduation or a promotion? The Spotted Pig. Hungry on a Tuesday? The Spotted Pig.
There’s a reason why The Spotted Pig has been a New York City staple and mainstay for over a decade – it’s really, really, really good. It’s not super fancy or pretentious like some of the other New York elite restaurants, but rather it’s casual and welcoming while serving the same level of food. You won’t find any crazy foams or avant garde dishes on the menu, but who says that’s what it takes to be a great restaurant. Not The Spotted Pig. Compared to the other best restaurants in New York City, The Spotted Pig differentiates itself by serving excellent comfort food, and that’s . . . comforting.