Editor's note: With "In the Midnight Hour," Zachary Feldman will take you to a different late-night eatery every week.
Open Until: Sun-Wed: 3am, Thu-Sat: 4am
Drinking Until: Close
Food Until: 2am, 7 days
A few hours into the year's second snowfall, and the West Village's Wilfie & Nell was going full force. The classic rock blasting out of their speakers spilled out into the sidewalk as the bouncer gave us a once-over. It was an experience more commonly reserved for the clubs of the Meatpacking District, but we realized that, like us, the fashionable crowd was just taking refuge from mother nature.
The bar, with its hearty Anglo-leaning pub grub curated by Joaquin Baca of, among other places, the Rusty Knot (another boisterous watering hole with food that's better than it need be), is one of the finest spots for good-natured revelry in the city. The menu is dominated by gut-busting plates of shepherd's pie, scotch eggs and chicken liver pate, and though there's no formal dinner seating, you get the feeling that the food is as much a star as the solid cocktail program.
Communal seating being the only option, we were wedged into a booth with a group of hard-partying professionals hoisting pints and whooping to each other about the room's most eligible bachelors. A quick peek at the drinks list, and our choice of hot apple cider ($9) spiked with calvados was a no-brainer. The apple liqueur boosted the tipple's warming properties tenfold.
The food is downright reasonable when you take into account that they source almost all of their ingredients locally from village fixtures Blue Ribbon Bakery, Murray's Cheese, and the like. A bun-like meat pie ($5) tore apart with a whoosh of steam, the ground beef and vegetables within begging to be slathered in its accompanying dollop of HP sauce, that old-guard British condiment.
Irish salad ($8) is the only available option for those in search of vegetables, even if those vegetables come studded with crisp bacon and halves of soft boiled egg. The tangle of greens is the lightest thing on the menu, and it isn't very light at all. Still, it acts as a nice balance to all the meat and cheese.
Dishes like the Scotch egg ($4) don't even pretend to be good for you. Wilfie and Nell's version wraps sage-flecked sausage around hard-boiled eggs and then breads and deep-fries the whole affair. If you find the yolks a little dry, the thimble of whole grain mustard provided does a nice job of providing lubrication.
Speaking of which, that whole grain mustard shows up all over the place. A mound of it comes with the Berkshire pork sliders, the various iterations of grilled cheese, and—along with some mildly sweet pickled red cabbage—the corned beef and gruyere sandwich ($10). Shredded corned beef is meltingly tender, bolstered by the nuttiness of gruyere and cradled between two griddled slices of pullman loaf. It's New York deli by way of Dublin.
With its fun-loving atmosphere and quality execution (both in food and drink), Wilfie and Nell feels like a bar that would thrive most anywhere in the city. That it sits in the heart of one of the city's coziest neighborhoods makes it all the easier to enjoy.