Cozy is key right now. The temperature has dropped 40 degrees in less than a week and the wind has been whipping like it's mid February - winter coats are definitely in full force. There is not much left to do in the city other than find little nooks where you can hibernate and store up on great food and drink. Located on an unassuming Tribeca block in a former carriage house, Smith & Mills is simply made for this very abrupt change of seasons. It is hard to imagine a more quaint space than what lies behind the unmarked doors of 71 North Moore street. The only catch is knowing to push on the wooden panel on the front right portion of the exterior - otherwise you might be left in the cold all night.
Even if you only intend to go for just a drink or two at the bar, I guarantee that you will end up staying longer than expected - and by default, ordering more than expected too. I know I've already said it once, but I'll say it again - Smith & Mills defines cozy. And cozy leads to settling in for the night. After a brief wait (they don't take reservations), we nestled into our table - one of about six in the entire restaurant - and ordered up a round of classic champagne cocktails. This simple drink, a sugar cube in bitters dropped into a glass of champagne, dates back to the 19th century and could not have gone better with the vintage setting. The surrounding shelves are even lined with antique flatware and jars while the bathroom relies on an old train car sink that empties manually.
If it wasn't enough that the atmosphere seemed to be perfectly suiting my current mood, the menu - featuring soups and comfort food - certainly did the trick. We each ordered a soup to start and then shared a few salads as our mains. The clam and oyster chowder is always on the menu and the French onion soup was the special of the night. While the soups were based upon the classic recipes, both were full of flavor and warmed us right up. I loved the addition of oysters to the traditional New England chowder and the French onion soup was served with a manchego crostini - adding a Spanish element to it. As comfort food (and soups for this matter) tend to be fairly hearty, it was nice to have salads to follow. We shared the warm mushroom salad with butter lettuce, chestnut, squash, yellow wax beans, tomatoes and goat cheese as well as the organic chicken cobb with avocado, tomatoes, smoked bacon, and bleu cheese. The ingredients could not have been fresher. Maybe it was because of the warm aspect of it, but the mushroom salad was my favorite.
After the meal, I felt completely satisfied - full (but not too full), relaxed (but not quite ready for bed), and (I'll say it one more time) completely warm and cozy. While I normally love spreading the word about great finds, I honestly considered keeping this one to myself. Smith & Mills is just that small! I do worry that with too many rave reviews it might fill up too fast. But, I do also feel it is my duty to let you in on the best kept secrets of the city. And, with a wait staff and bartenders being so nice, it wouldn't quite be fair to them not to eat and tell. I guess the good news is that they don't seem to be planning on adding a doorknob to the unmarked entrance any time soon.
Smith and Mills
71 N Moore St
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 219-8568