East Village Dinner: Peels Offers Comfort Food at Discomforting Prices; Leave the “Secret” Burger a Secret

Date November 7, 2011




Peels is known for brunch, but since I refuse to wait for a table at brunch on weekends, I decided to give dinner a try. Unfortunately, the $7 side of Brussels sprouts was the most memorable part of my $100 meal for two.  I should have known that in this food-consumed city, if the waitress has to up-sell me on an off-menu “secret burger ($18)” – Bacon and pimento cheese atop a Piedmontese beef patty, shredded iceberg lettuce and pickled onion, jalapeno slaw – I’d have known about it by now if it was any good.  It wasn’t.   The flavor of smoke and cheese product overwhelmed; thick cut bacon was so chewy I pulled out an entire piece of bacon with my first bite.  This is why meatball-shaped burger patties should be simply adorned, there’s not enough surface area for the toppings to hold onto.  The veggies provided no redemption, iceberg lettuce is pointless and the slaw offered no acid or heat to cut through the bacon and cheese. The accompanying house made parmesan and chive tater tots – hearty like mini knishes, as Lil NYC Food Guy noted – were the only saving grace.  At $21 for two pieces of fried chicken (not pictured), this better be the I’ve ever had.  Not even close.  One drumstick and one breast? At least give me the option for all dark meat so I can experience some flavor if the breading is going to be so ordinary.  The bed of mashed sweet potatoes – which as Lil NYC Food Guy observed, “got old quick” – were gloppy and overly sweet; any chicken resting on it was rendered soggy.  Moving forward, The Cardinal will be my first stop for East Village fried chicken.  The shrimp and grits ($13) appetizer looked better than it tasted; it delivered in the texture department – creamy grits, chewy bacon, just firm enough shrimp – but it needed a dousing in Secret Aardvark habanero hot sauce to really satisfy.  The biggest insult of all may be the fact that Sir Kensington gourmet scooping ketchup is offered over Heinz. Comfort food without Heinz? Blasphemy.

Peels Link 325 Bowery at 2nd Street New York, NY 10003 (646) 602-7015 Phone only leads to recording for reservation line Open Daily 7:30am-12am

11 Responses to “East Village Dinner: Peels Offers Comfort Food at Discomforting Prices; Leave the “Secret” Burger a Secret”

  1. Ashley said:

    Thank you so much for recommending The Cardinal a couple weeks back – As a NC native, it is by far the best fried chicken I’ve found in the city yet!

    Couldn’t agree with you more about Peels. I think Freeman’s and Peels are two of the most overrated restaurants in the city!

  2. Dr. Dyspepsia said:

    Scathing, despite the lovely photos. Haven’t been there, never will, but from that review from one with a reputation as sterling as yours, they must have deserved it. Give an overpriced, overdecorated dive a cute and homespun name, and the bridge-and-tunnelers (alas, describes me, too) think it’s fabulous.

    Wait for brunch? Rarely, and it better be good.

    $21 for a leg and a thigh? Never. Not even for your “best I ever had”, ’cause it’ll still be a disappoinment. Unless, of course, it’s a genetically huge (say, pound a piece), truffle-tasting mutant.

    Good to be back, Food Guy! Looking forward to the Peking Duck review, and see you around.

    Dr. Dyspepsia

  3. The NYC Food Guy said:


    Really glad you enjoyed The Cardinal. After eating this disappointing fried chicken at Peels, I was ready for another trip to Avenue B.

    I’ve never been to Freeman’s for dinner but the mac and cheese and hot artichoke dip were pretty on par. Burger was unmemorable but fries were good.

    So, just checked out your website. You were on The Bachelor?!

    @Dr. Dyspepsia,
    Great seeing you and the family at Peking Duck House. If you find that pound-per-piece truffle-flavored chicken, you know where to find me.


  4. Sal said:

    food guy, you say “iceberg lettuce is pointless” — but isn’t lettuce really added as a topping for textural purposes? it’s not as if romaine lettuce adds such a distinct taste to a burger; the lettuce is really just there to add a tad of crunchiness to an otherwise uncrunchy burger….so how is it pointless?

    nice pic of the sprouts — they look amazing. what were they seasoned with, salt/olive oil??

  5. Lil NYC Food Guy said:

    All lettuce is pointless- get it off of my burger please. I like my crunch from fried onions or bacon…or both.

  6. The NYC Food Guy said:

    I just meant the iceberg lettuce was pretty pointless in this recipe. It didn’t add much because it was sliced so thin it didn’t even deliver on its purpose – textural contrast – which you correctly pointed out. The sprouts, however, were simply prepared, probably just olive oil, salt and pepper, and great. They’re the only thing I’d return for. This past weekend, I went across the street from Peels to the new pizza joint Forcella, where they deep fry their pizza dough before baking it in the oven. It was pretty damn good, stay tuned for that post later this week. Sal, have you had anything good to eat lately?

    @Lil NYC Food Guy,
    Amen, brother, amen.

  7. Ashley said:

    Ha, yes I was on the Bachelor! I hope that doesn’t discredit my taste for good food 🙂

    I thought the artichoke dip was so-so. I wish they would serve it with something more substantial than the bread they serve it with. I went for brunch and I saw 2 people around me send back the baked eggs dish. It wasn’t the worst brunch I’ve ever had but I’d go to Supper, Northern Spy Co., Brindle Room or the Cardinal over Freeman’s or Peels.

    Btw, Forcella is amazing! Been there twice in the past two weeks and the pizza does not disappoint. The one with mozzarella, arugula, truffle oil, and parma is delicious!

  8. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Judging from all the name drops you just made, I think it’s pretty obvious that you know your food. I only tried the fried pizza but there were a lot of others that looked interesting. I was pretty stuffed as I had Artichoke right before and then had to save room for Little Meunster after, the new grilled cheese spot on the LES. Unfortunately it was closed so I just went to Sugar Sweet Sunshine and ate way too much banana pudding (best in the city) and chocolate chip cookie, butterscotch, whipped cream pudding. And an ooey gooey cupcake (chocolate almond butter cream frosting?! C’mon). Ashely, my dream is to host a food TV show, when are we getting together to figure out how to make a TV show and overthrow Bourdain?

  9. Ashley said:

    How was Little Muenster? I’ve been pretty excited about it for a while, but now I’m scared that my expectation are too high!

    Let’s get the ball rolling on that tv show – I’m a little more Paula Deen then Bourdain though!

  10. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Little Muenster was closed! I was pretty disappointed. Lame reason too, they blamed the marathon. Lower East Side is no where near it, strange. You think a place that just opened and is getting press would want to stay open!

    You bring the Deen, I bring the Bourdain. Done!

  11. [email protected] said:

    Very honest review of the place. Except you forgot to mention that the interior is really, really nice. Well, at leas the upstairs. They have awesome drinks too.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>