Delicate. It’s a slightly unusual word to describe a large piece of fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles stuffed with cheddar cheese, that’s doused with whiskey maple syrup. Yet, somehow the kitchen at Root & Bone manages to turn comfort food into a beautiful art. The colors pop, with fresh ingredients balancing out the fried elements of each dish.
The latest New York City hot spot resides in Alphabet City. Root and Bone brings the rustic charm with white washed brick walls and miniature floral arrangements. Vintage bottles and chachkies fill the crevices throughout, with simple light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Each place setting displays a unique, antique plate adding to the charm.
We were offered seats at the chef’s counter or the window, staring out at the relatively quiet East 3rd Street. Instead, we choose option number three, to take one of the coveted four-top tables in the smaller backroom.
Drinks were the first order of business. Instead of being fiscally responsibly and ordering a $6 glass of wine from the “Garage Sale” wines selection, I eyed the Twisted Mustache, a Bourbon based cocktail.
Ginger in cocktails provides a refreshing, subtle burst of heat that mixes incredibly well with citrus and liquor. The drink was a delightful, light pairing with the extremely decadent meal to come.
Slightly bitter, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and all together awesome. This is a really fabulous cocktail and will make you wonder why horseradish doesn’t appear in more drinks (other then Bloody Mary’s) more often.
Narrowing down the menu began with the bread section and the ultimate choice; cornbread or biscuits. The waiter suggested the thyme biscuits paired with the honey-roasted chicken jus and toasted benne-seed sea salt.
Flaky, light, square biscuits are topped with fresh sprigs of thyme. Honey sweetens the roasted chicken jus, infusing the buttery biscuits with a decadent juiciness. Topped with a little sprinkle of sea salt and crunchy sesame seeds and you’ve got the ultimate southern comfort starter.
Root & Bone’s combination of fresh and fried is highlighted best by their Peach Caprese salad. A lovely mix of grilled peaches and seasonal tomatoes topped with a crispy square of fried pimento cheese.
Juicy peaches with a light char from the grill mixes with the tart green tomatoes and sweet, mini heirloom tomatoes. Sticky molasses vinegar falls into the background with the warm, creamy pimento cheese mixing with the fresh ingredients. The breading on the outside of the cheese adds another layer of crunch, giving added texture to the dish. It’s an summer meets southern take on the classic caprese salad.
Even in its short tenure, Root & Bone quickly became known throughout the foodie community for their fried chicken. The famous chicken is served in three different ways; in a basket, paired with waffles, or in a waffle sandwich.
After eyeing the waffle sandwich at the table next to us, we instantly knew that this was the move.
Root & Bone turns their fried chicken and masterful waffles into one hell of a sandwich. The light waffles are stuffed with cheddar cheese, adding even more richness to a decadent dish. The fried chicken, prepared in a sweet tea brine, is crispy and cooked to perfection. The watercress and pickled green tomato add a bit of bitterness and freshness to balance out the gigantic sandwich. Smother each bite with the sweet and sticky whiskey-maple syrup and you’ll be rolling yourself home. I’ll admit, I was only able to tackle half of one sandwich before needing to move on to some “lighter” dishes.
Grilled sweet corn is served in four different preparations, highlighting everything there is to love about the vegetable.
Corn on Corn on Corn on Corn. Grilled pieces of fresh, sweet corn gets a beautiful car on the outside before being smothered in a creamy corn butter and topped with lime-salted popcorn and large, Peruvian style kernels. What could possibly be bad about this?
Perhaps one of the most anti-climatic dishes of the night was the Mac and Cheese.
Thick layers of cheese coat curled pieces of pasta. Breadcrumbs act as the only element of crunch with a few stray scallions haphazardly sprinkled on top. For my next trip, I would rather spend my caloric intake on another one of the dishes.
Shrimp and grits arrived next, our single “bigger plate” of the evening, since we were anxious to try the grits and needed another protein (that’s not fried).
Pools of a reduced Brooklyn Lager Jus form in the crevices of the thick, creamy grits. Sauteed Shrimp and ham mix together, creating almost a surf and turf feel. The grits are the glue that binds the entire dish together, addictive, and sweetened from the rich sauce. Surprisingly, this felt like the heaviest dish, surpassing that of the Chicken and Waffle sandwich. It would benefit greatly from an element of freshness.
Finally. The meal finished with the namesake side dish; the roots.
Colorful mixture of roasted root vegetables are simply prepared. On the side of the bowl sits a dark green colored pesto made from carrot tops, which had an off-putting bitterness. It seemed slightly out of place with all of the bright vegetables that could each stand on their own. I devoured each of the roots, even as my stomach told me it was time to stop. There’s something so bright and addictive about really fresh vegetables, roasted and served as is.
Root & Bone defies most rules of Southern comfort food by infusing fresh seasonal ingredients into each dish. The gluttonous nature of the meal seems balanced out by the plethora of vegetable, and in most cases, vegetarian options. It’s not heavy just for the sake of frying things. There is a delicate nature into the preparation of each dish to only allow one or two ingredients to touch the deep fryer. I’m excited to see how Root & Bone continues to grow as a restaurant and transform into the next seasons. Squash and pumpkin dishes, please!
The next time the craving comes on for some quality fried chicken and biscuits, with a side of fresh veggies, you know exactly where to go.
Root & Bone – 200 East 3rd Street – New York, NY
Root & Bone
Location: East Village/Alphabet City, NY
Perfect For: Farm to Table, Casual Meal, Chronic Brunch, Drinks
Reservations: Only accepted for groups of 6 or more (646.682.7080)
Favorite Dishes: Peach Caprese, Biscuits, Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, Grilled Corn