I'd be mighty curious to hear what my fellow chowhounds have to say about their dining experiences at Smith St. Kitchen, Saul, Grocery, Ytournel, Pepe Viola (the new branch of Pepe Rosso), Sur, Banania, Patois, Pho, Victory Kitchen (which just renovated), and the other three that have probably opened up while I've been typing.
And are all of the new joints really going to survive? (A few weeks ago, Jim Surowiecki-- a neighbor and a former colleague-- argued in the New Yorker that they would, because Smith Street is now a food destination).
As for me-- I used to like Sur, but the spacey service drove me away. I found Smith St. Kitchen sort of unspecial and peremptory-- the kind of restaurant where you mindlessly order familiar-sounding entrees, which you then don't remember at all (one exception: a divine apple dessert). The Grocery was lovely, and the owners' charm made everything taste even better. Pepe Viola had potential, though there were a few third-day glitches. Also on the bargain front-- Victory Kitchen serves a luscious burger for something like nine bucks. Dinner at Banania has been good to great (try the mussels), but at brunch, my granola came out of a box, and the fruit was brown. And has everyone tried the french toast (more like a french toast bread pudding) that Patois serves at Sunday brunch? It's worth enduring the snobbery and the smoke.
Ytournel always looks sad and empty. Has anyone been?
I think Saul wins for sheer class, execution, and professionalism-- but then again, I'm utterly and openly biased, because Saul is my next-door-neighbor. Which is, after all, one of the things I love about eating in the neighborhood.