At Virginia’s, Modern American in Alphabet City

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Something about the layout, the smiles and the fact that nobody has any kind of attitude only adds to the romance.

There is this perfect quiet corner of the East Village, cum Alphabet City, where some of the best neighborhood food spots are finding themselves a little sweet spot in all of the city’s madness. But try not to tell everyone, that’s what’s so great about it. Virginia’s (named after owner Reed Adelson’s mother) is exactly there and fitting into the uniqueness of the block.

“Virginia’s is truly intended to be a modern American, neighborhood bistro,” shares Adelson. “The philosophy has always been that we want to offer an experience that is unpretentious and accessible, yet executed at a very high level both culinarily and from a service standpoint.” And that is precisely what sets Virginia’s apart: a perfectly acceptable amount of attention to the finest details.

Whether you’re from the neighborhood, coming to sit at the bar for their famed burgers (think cheese, think soft soft onions) or coming to feast on their tight and manageable menu that will long stay with you—well, everyone feels warm and fuzzy here. Something about the layout, the smiles and the fact that nobody has any kind of attitude only adds to the romance.

Then there is chef Matt Conroy, who came from Empellon Cocina and Little Prince, and the long-lasting memories he leaves on your plate. You can’t believe you’ve never had this before: charred sweet potato with horseradish and Bayley Hazen Blue plus verjus. And a roasted chicken, as tender as the night, served with barley risotto and a lemony thyme love. The spaghetti squash and Gruyère you will make at home after this meal. There is dessert, too, go to find out what’s happening this week.

“We feel that there is no single element of the restaurant that is more or less important than another,” says Adelson. “The flowers on the bar, the votive on the table, the garnish on the cocktail, the sign out front—everything is equally important. The idea is that the service, food, beverage program all amount to something greater than their sum.” And if we have to start doing some maths here, well it adds up to a great arithmetic of good value plus equal enjoyment.

“When we began construction on Virginia’s, the layout was very attractive and the bones of the space were great with vaulted ceilings and original brick walls, but it was in rough shape,” smiles Adelson. “It was actually a really really bad sports bar with TVs everywhere.”

But luckily that’s passed thanks to Sam Buffa (Vinegar Hill House and Fellow Barber) and Amy Butchko, who wanted a “timeless” look and feel.  “We didn’t want something trendy or ‘of the moment,’ because Virginia’s is intended as a neighborhood restaurant; here to stay,” adds Adelson. And so they liked the bar to be bright and lively and the west dining room what Adelson calls “a bit more intimate à la Gramercy Tavern.”

Featured photo credit: Caitlin Gunther

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Daniel Scheffler

Daniel Scheffler is a writer living in Manhattan (with his fiancé and pup). He writes for the New York Times, South China Morning Post and more.