Apps Only: The Little Owl

Apps Only

Seeking out the best bites for under $15 a head.

Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget. He blogs at Ben Cooks Everything.

20110109-little-owl-tagliatelli.jpg

Tagliatelli in pork ragu at The Little Owl. [Photos: Ben Fishner]

Little Owl's tiny dining room on a quiet corner in the West Village doesn't quite suggest the wonderful dishes that their kitchen serves from night to night. It's hardly an under the radar spot, but is it possible to eat there on a budget? I stopped by last week to see how their appetizers and sides held up.

An order of Gravy Meatball Sliders ($12, 3 to an order) was quite tasty, made up of a blend of beef, veal and pork with plenty of pecorino. This was a classy meatball sandwich, and I liked that the kitchen didn't try to dress it up with over-the-top mix-ins or toppings: the tender meat was the star here, as it should have been.

20110109-little-owl-meatball-slider.jpg

Meatball slider.

Also straightforward, if considerably fancier, was a salad of Foie Gras and Pears ($11), a salad of greens and sweet and hot onions topped with an olive oil-rich dressing. Not only did this salad have more foie than I expected, it was well balanced, with each of the ingredients combatting the superior richness of the foie and successfully keeping it under control. I wasn't sure how to eat the cranberry biscuit it came served with (foie salad sandwich?) but I certainly found a way to finish it.

20110109-little-owl-foie-salad.jpg

Foie gras and pears.

The Tagliatelli ($9) in pork bolognese was one of the best dishes we tried, and certainly the best value of the night. Like the meatball, this was a simple dish perfectly prepared, and filling to boot. Comfort food on a cold night, the rich bolognese coated every inch of the the perfect pasta. The squid in the Skillet Braised Clamari ($12) was a bit chewy for my taste, but the garlicky spinach and basil broth were worth the price of admission alone—as were the lard topped croutons. Plenty of extra bread was on hand for sopping up, as it should have been.

We rounded out our meal with an order of Brussels Sprouts ($7). Mixed with sweet and spicy pecans, they were sufficiently salted to combat the sweetness of the nuts. Brussels sprouts seem to be on every menu these days, but these were some of the best. My only complaint was that there weren't more.

In the end, we were over budget on this meal; we spent $51 between the three of us before tax and tip, $6 over our target of $15/person. But we left not only satisfied, but stuffed. Little Owl is tiny—get there early or be prepared to wait—but it boasts a solid, well executed menu and a friendly staff to boot.

The Little Owl

90 Bedford Street, New York NY 10014 (map) 212-741-4695
thelittleowlnyc.com