39 Dishes, 31 Seats at NYC's Joseph Leonard
It’s been a while since I’ve eaten at a restaurant where the menu items outnumber the seats. (I’m thinking specifically of Shopsin’s on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which offers 200-plus dishes to some two dozen diners.) At the brand-new Joseph Leonard in the West Village, the ratio is much lower: I count 39 dishes on the American bistro menu and 31 seats at the wraparound bar and little tables. Owner Gabriel Stulman (a former Food & Wine intern, I’m proud to say) has a story for each recipe. The daily changing whole fried fish is inspired by an entrée at Boater’s Grill, a Miami Cuban place he travels to by boat. Steak Rossini is on the menu, so people can have New York strip and foie gras for $25. (Stulman is big on cheap indulgence: He’s pricing his oysters at $1.50 each, at least half what they go for at almost every other raw bar in the city.) Perhaps best of all is the hashbrown—note the singular—a fantastic, golden-brown potato-cake side dish that’s an ode to the Tornado steak house in Madison, Wisconsin, where Stulman went to college. Will the hashbrown be on there at breakfast when JL starts serving it in the next few weeks? "An emphatic hell yes," says Stulman.