In The Midnight Hour: Pastis
Open Until: 1:00 am, Sun-Wed; 2:00am, Thu; 3:00am, Fri-Sat
Drinking Until: close, 7 days
Food Until: half-hour before close, 7 days
Pastis is one of New York's legendary mob scenes (the crowded kind, not the Mafia kind). The restaurant, Keith McNally's follow-up to Soho's iconic Balthazar, is a legend in its own right—the kind of eatery that seems to anchor a neighborhood. Were it not for McNally (and of course Florent), the Meatpacking District would not be what it is today. Breakfasts and brunches command lengthy waits, and on weekends, you're lucky to get a seat at the bar after midnight.
The exterior lights attract couture-clad moths from all over the city. They buzz about outside, waiting for tables or lingering after their meals. More well-heeled groups linger inside, taking up the large circular tables that populate the middle of the main dining area.
McNally vets Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson originally crafted the menu of French classics that offer a bit a departure from croque monsieurs and steak frites—though they offer lovely renditions of those, too. A delicate warm goat cheese petatou ($14) delighted with its cylinder of soft potatoes and juicy kalamata olives, fragrant with oregano, topped with a thick disc of goat cheese torchon. The flavors all complement each other and a bright salad of mixed greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette tempers any heaviness the cheese brings to the dish.
Steak tartare ($15) isn't a pretty dish; in fact, it's downright unfortunate looking. Spackled across the plate like bricklayer's mortar, this appetizer is a tasty wolf in sheep's clothing. The raw steak is finely chopped but not pasty, and held together with diced pickles, onions and mustard; straightforward and delicious. The accompanying baguette toasts do a fine job as crunchy canvases for the velvety beef.
Dinner is served until midnight, so if you find yourself eating anytime near the witching hour, beg and plead for a cauldron of the tripe gratinee ($19). Delivered in a cast iron pot, the tripe is stewed to a fork-tender consistency and topped with breadcrumbs scorched under a salamander. Bolstering the offal are perfectly oval fingerling potatoes and thick chunks of smoky lardon, the fat rendered meltingly soft. It's one of the best tripe dishes I've had in the city, rivaling Al di La's stellar trippa alla toscana.
As we took our leave, an elderly gentleman who'd been sitting on the restaurant's bench all night approached us, old-timey camera in hand. "Would you like a black and white picture?" All that was missing was his accent.
About the author: Zachary Feldman is a former debutante and current freelance writer. He makes hand-crafted, small batch bitters under the moniker Bitters, Old Men.