Pigs in a Blanket ($12)
A cute and effective Chinese takeout mashup of fatty-sweet Chinese sausage wrapped in compressed hot dog buns (the pasta machine doubles as Bread Compressor at Alder), then deep fried and served with sinus-clearing mustard (like the packets, but better) and duck sauce-esque chili jam.
Pub Cheese ($9)
It's hard not to stare agog, if only for a moment, at the pub cheese, a purple blob of cheddar, cream cheese, shallots, red wine, and carageenan blended until Velveeta-smooth, smeared on a black slate with crumbles of sweet pistachio brittle. Not just for the weirdness of the thing, but for its generous portion—the spread with its compressed Martin's potato roll "chips" is the kind of bar snack you wish never ends, and it doesn't.
Chicken Liver Toast ($17)
Alder has two liver dishes on its menu: one with foie, creamy and refined, the other with chopped chicken liver, something my grandmother might love after a neat bourbons. It's all about texture: soft nubs of chicken livers piled on a crisp slip of cornbread toast, surrounded by equally nubby grapefruit-shallot marmalade. Oh, and chicken skin as good as the best chicharrones, because chopped liver ain't chopped liver here, and the kitchen knows there's more to the organ than just pâté.
St. Marks the Spot (Discontinued)
This carrot and aquavit cocktail was just taken off-menu, but I want to include it to give props to Alder's treatment of savory drinks. What could have easily tasted like a watered down smoothie is clean, herbal, and pairs well with savory bites from the kitchen. Don't be afraid of vegetable juices at the bar.
A vodka cocktail I can get behind: Absolut infused with the flavor, but not the burn, of horseradish, mixed with green apple juice, carbonated, then served with a Campari-infused apple slice. Hooray for more savory drinks!
Fried Cauliflower ($15)
A whole head of cauliflower deep fried naked until it's browned all over and just-tender within, and portioned like the vegetable equivalent of prime rib. It comes on a purée of preserved lemon, almonds, and lemon oil and gets toppings of melty lardo and crunchy cacao nibs. Here we have a cauliflower dish that tastes unapologetically of cauliflower, tender and sweet, enriched but not overpowered by its creamy, nutty, and crunchy accompaniments. A slight quibble for the kitchen: remove the lardo, which is mostly unnecessary, and throw vegetarians a tasty, tasty bone.
Caesar Nigiri ($16)
Romaine hearts and egg yolk replace rice and wasabi, doesn't wow as much, but that's okay, there's still more pub cheese to eat.
Hey Rube (Half-Pour Shown; $6)
A lightly fizzy mix of Ford's gin and Pimm's with rhubarb and cucumber: a Pimm's cup refined down to the essentials, a little tart, a little sweet, more thoughtful than you'd think on first sip.
Dr. Dave's Scrip Pad (Half-Pour Shown; $6)
An Old Overholt rye and Ramazzotti amaro drink that doesn't taste like every other bitter brown whiskey thing; there's smoked maple syrup and yuzu juice for a super-smooth, multi-dimensional sipper that revives your faith in sweet drinks and their role at the dinner table.
Rye Pasta ($18)
The noodles really do taste like rye, distressingly like rye, more rye than rye bread—and nothing else to balance them, a noble attempt that doesn't deliver beyond its concept.
Fish & Chips ($18)
A pale batter somewhere between typical fried fish and tempura arrives limp and pallid. But the sweet pea-enriched tartar sauce is pretty killer.
Bikini Season (Half-Pour Shown; $6)
Grassy Avua cachaça mixed with makrud lime and Velvet Falernum, is less inventive but superbly balanced, and the thought of having it around this summer is enough to make Alder my new favorite East Village bar.
Root Beer Pudding ($8)
An airy custard complete with foamy head that gets its sasparilla soul from root beer candy. After seven courses and five drinks between a table for two, it couldn't go down fast enough.
Alder is both modern in design and inviting. It borrows its name from a birch tree; there are pale wood accents fittingly planted throughout the dining room.