So, despite some Yelp hate I've read, we ventured out to Peels tonight for an early-ish dinner. I love Freeman's, so I was hoping Peels could hold its own, as it's a bit closer to my house. It certainly exceeded expectations.
First of all, it's much more open than Freeman's, and surprisingly devoid of dead animals on the wall. Whereas Freeman's feels like a northeastern hunting lodge, Peels feels like a southern parlor—pressed tin ceilings, old light fixtures, long white communal tables, etc. (They also have a prominent 'B' from the health department in the window, but no matter.)
Anyway, we were seated upstairs at one of the long tables in the center of the room. The cocktail menu is pretty expansive, but they all sounded pretty good. The BF had the Ichabod's Old Fashion (bourbon, rum, pumpkin bitters, and maple syrup), which smelled heavenly and was quite good. I had the Peels Punch (pisco, bianco vermouth, hibiscus, lime, bitters), which was probably the most disappointing part of an otherwise great meal. It wasn't bad by any means, just tasted like pink lemonade, which is fine if you like that. Partially my fault, as I should've ordered a more substantial drink.
We ordered two apps to start—the andouille corn dogs with creole mustard and the stuffed montauk squid. The squid's current iteration isn't the same as the menu that's online, but this squid was served with greens, mayo and grapefruit. The corndogs were delicious in their own right, but the squid stole the show for both of us. The green were perfect, the grapefruit added a nice citrus burst and the squid was fresh and well-cooked. We will certainly order it again, and I highly recommend it.
On to the entrees...
I had the fresh fried chicken (fresh kill, free-range birds, delicata squash, creamed collard greens, and herbed honey). This was the best fried chicken I've ever had, and being from the South originally, I've had some super fried chicken in my lifetime. The batter was perfectly salted and amazingly crunchy throughout. Underneath, the chicken was moist. It didn't even need the herbed honey it was served with, but the crunchy, salty chicken batter, moist chicken and sweet, herb-tinged honey was so, so good. I'm not a huge squash fan, but it was cooked perfectly. The portion was quite large—a drumstick, and then a big meaty thigh. It was more than enough.
My boyfriend had the pan-roasted pollock with stewed mustard greens, rutabaga puree, and red wine-ham hock sauce. It was served as two very nice sized fillets on a bed of the greens, surrounded by the puree and the (very pretty) sauce. The bite of fish that I tried was flaky and played very well with all the other flavors. A very simple preparation, but well-executed and all nice, wintry flavors.
Dessert was inevitable at this point, so we let our server (Nicholas, who was great.) recommend the Peels sundae. It was a big sundae, served in a classic Mason-style jar. Vanilla ice cream, butterscotch, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, toasted peanuts, pretzels piece and brownie chunks. Our server told us prior to ordering, "it's like crack," and I have to agree. All the desserts sounded great, but this is a must-order. I could see myself popping in for a cup of Stumptown and that sundae.
Final impressions: great space, with a decidedly different feel from Freeman's. Service is friendly and casual. Don't go if you're in a rush—the table next to us complained that their order didn't get taken in a timely fashion, so if you don't like leisurely meals, don't bother. Price point is really reasonable, in my opinion: two drinks, two apps, two entrees and dessert was just over $100 for two. I'll certainly return.
325 Bowery, New York, NY 10003