The innovative and sometimes quirky drinks of The Wayland have catapulted the renovated dive bar into the latest cocktail mecca of the East Village. Unlike the cocktails, the food menu is much more simple, featuring a disclaimer that the tiny kitchen is "pretty much that dude cooking right over there." But even a simple menu can be well conceived, and chef/co-owner Robert Ceraso has come up with a great selection of shareable plates for his partner Jason Mendenhall's libations.
Whether it's happy hour or late night, any visit to The Wayland should begin with a plate of Sausage Bread & Ricotta ($9). Slather on a generous spoonful of fresh ricotta over thick slices of Pecoraro Bakery's fresh sausage bread, an Italian-style loaf cooked with bits of homemade pork and veal sausage, the aromas and juices of which enrich the bread.
Braising works well for a kitchen that isn't equipped to cook much to order, and The Wayland has gotten creative with their offerings. A simple Pulled Chicken Sandwich ($10) features free-range chicken braised in apples, tomatoes, peppers and spices. Diced cucumbers and spicy pickles add crunch and heat, and a garlic-cilantro aioli ties the whole sandwich together.
Braised Beast, a beef short rib slow-cooked in cherries and red wine, can arrive on toast ($7) or as a full sandwich ($12). The sandwich comes with a side of addictive salt and vinegar chips.
Vegetables feature prominently in drinks here—as seen with the kale juice in the Garden Variety Cocktail—so it fits that the food menu does not shy away from featuring fresh veggies as well. Charred Snap Peas ($8), blackened on a cast iron skillet are tossed with radishes and mint, then dressed with a bit of olive oil, sea salt and cotija cheese. Brussels ($9) includes raw shaved brussels sprouts with slices of tart apple, salted pecans and honey lemon dressing.
To eat comfortably, expect to get there early, particularly on weekends, or seating will be extremely limited. If it's available, settle into a corner spot at the bar right by the piano; weekdays often brings in live bands.
About the author: Nancy Huang, who comes to New York by way of Los Angeles, writes The Wanderist, a food and travel blog of adventures here and abroad. She loves noodles, subway maps, and word games.