"Can you dine there and avoid all those heads and tails?"
The Spotted Pig
314 West 11th Street, New York NY 10014 (at Greenwich St; map); (212) 620-0393; thespottedpig.com
Cuisine: Seasonal British and Italian-influenced
Setting: Lively pub
Veggie Options: 4 bar snacks, 2 plates, several vegetable side dishes
Cost: About $30 per person, excluding drinks
Chef April Bloomfield's restaurants revel in pork belly and trotters, head cheese and rabbit terrines. They sell an incredible haddock chowder and an imitation-worthy burger. Her restaurants are shrines to meat (from head to tail, of course) and flesh-heavy pub food. Not an obvious choice for a vegetarian.
But can you dine there and avoid all those heads and tails? Bloomfield and her team have proved their excellence and flexibility in our estimation: the vegetarian options on the menu at The Spotted Pig in the West Village are deeply satisfying and belly-rubbingly delicious. We're still talking about these dishes days later, and I'm guessing we'll be dreaming of them for weeks.
While you sip a pint of local Captain Lawrence pale ale (and you should), you might as well order a little snack. The deviled eggs ($3) are creamy and rich, with a mustardy tang and a shower of fresh chives. Though they could have benefited from a slightly lighter hand with the salt, we gobbled them up.
The star of the show was a newer offering: grilled polenta with Gorgonzola ($13, pictured at top). Each slab was crisp and smoky on the outside with a moist, silky interior. Delicate bitter greens contrasted the richness of the polenta and blue cheese—each element enlivened the whole.
A plate of roasted slender carrots ($8) topped any roasted vegetable dish we've encountered recently. Sweet as candy and beautifully caramelized, garnished with creamy roasted garlic cloves and crispy sprigs of thyme, it was a perfect side dish. We love a chef who can cook vegetables well.
A trip to Spotted Pig is not complete without an order of the gnudi ($15), made from rich, slightly tangy sheep's milk ricotta and served in a decadent pool of brown butter and sage. Though they were slightly more firm than I remembered from previous trips, we savored every mouthful. My dining companion, who had never tried them before, may have moaned a little.
We rounded out our feast with a surprise hit: the curried lentils ($8) were warm with ginger, cardamom, cumin, and cayenne—delicately spiced and cooked until tender. Garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche, they were filling and rich, a dish that would turn those mistrustful of legumes into lentil-lovers. We'd like to see these make an appearance on the brunch menu—throw a poached egg on top and we'd be back every weekend.
Each of the vegetarian options we tried was unfussy and satisfying, and so tasty we couldn't decide which bite we wanted to save for last. You're likely to hit huge crowds if you don't arrive early, but the Spotted Pig is definitely worth it, whether you're a pig-eater or not.
About the author: Maggie Hoffman also writes about cooking for Pithy and Cleaver.