Thank goodness for second chances. The turnover rate for restaurants and bars in NYC can often be a disheartening - for both owners and loyal customers. But, it can also be a great thing. I will be completely honest in admitting that since declaring West Fourth Street my home over five years ago I have been wondering when Absolutely Fourth would close. The location and space are just too great for a cheesy martini bar to stand ground. But, for years, it definitely did not seem like it was going anywhere as it catered to those jumping off the too nearby path train and the west fourth street station. And then, fall 2008 hit. A below average drink menu could no longer pay the bills. The space had a complete transformation and went from wannabe lounge to Irish gastropub. Wilfie and Nell has taken over. In tough times and cold weather, people want comfort in their food, drink, and setting - and this new spot provides all that and even a good time too.
I like the attitude and the vibe here. You walk in to a crowded bar where you feel like you probably know at least a handful of people. Most likely, you don't, but faces seem familiar and that alone is comforting. There are really no rules - everything goes. Tables are not only reserved for diners and the bar is not just drinkers. You will not find a hostess as there are no reservation or wait policies for tables - you are simply fending for yourself. This really isn't a problem because of how happy every one seems to be. Wilfie and Nell is the kind of place where you can just eat, drink, and be merry. There is no denying that it's loud from happy hour until the wee hours of the night. But again, it's just a testament to how much every one is enjoying themselves.
The other night, we walked right in and found an opening in the middle of one of the communal tables. Sandwiched between two different couples, we felt right at home and ordered up delicious cocktails that are not overly priced. The bartender definitely knows what he is doing and how to put together great combinations. The food was also affordable and goes perfectly with the pubby atmosphere. Even the Irish can pull off the trendy tapas concept. All plates range from $3 to $12 and are great for sharing. We ordered Berkshire pork sliders, a corned-beef sandwich with gruyere, and french fries with malt vinegar. To add a little green to our lives, we had a perfectly dressed spinach salad. But, even that was topped with bite size crispy bacon and a hard boiled egg. I am not sure there is anything on the menu that doesn't have a pork component - but who can really complain about that? They take pigs in a blanket to a new level as these little piggies are actually wrapped in bacon! On my next outing, I will definitely be trying those and the Scotch eggs (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, then breaded and deep-fried). Even I can only handle so much pork in one night!
Before leaving, I peered around the corner to check out the many different tables in the dark nooks and crannies. I was still convinced I knew at least a scattering of people, and, at that point, I probably did. It would be hard to leave Wilfie and Nell without making friends - whether it's with your table neighbors or even the bartenders - it's just a friendly place. I'm so glad that my stay on West Fourth has outlasted Absolutely Fourth. And I have a feeling Wilfie and Nell will see me through the rest of my west village days.
Wilfie and Nell
228 W. 4th st. (7th avenue)
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 242-2990