In his last formal review as the New York Times restaurant critic, Frank Bruni assigns a single star to The Redhead—a bar-turned-Southern restaurant in the East Village that Ed reviewed back in August of 2008.
In explaining why it merits his last words, Bruni places The Redhead at the intersection of New York dining trends over the last five years—diners-out now "find principled, distinctive cooking in places where they wouldn’t have expected it before," such as the barroom that spawned The Redhead's kitchen; it's in the East Village, "a center of gravity for young chefs intent on bold flavors"; it takes on "familiar, even lowbrow fare with exacting standards."
It's a bit surprising that Bruni would decide to devote his last review to a modest East Village eatery—a dozen blocks and a world away from the elegant Union Square Cafe and Eleven Madison Park of recent weeks—and then only grant it a single star. Much as he raves about the fried chicken, "unfailingly accessorized by something perfect," and the "shouts of butter and murmurs of brandy," he finds too much of the menu unimpressive (pasta, fish) to concede anything more.
Still, simply choosing The Redhead for his last, long-anticipated review may do more for the restaurant than the single star it garners. And though he's not quite shouting from the rooftops, it's clear that Bruni's more than a little smitten:
The Redhead remains a largely humble endeavor, with many limitations and its share of flaws, including a wine list sparser than it need be and service that’s often chaotic. But it is nonetheless the most inspiring kind of restaurant story, happy proof of that hoary adage about wills and ways.