In 1741, Admiral Sir Peter Warren, a distinguished British naval officer, built Warren House, a mansion overlooking the Hudson River, on his property in New York’s Greenwich Village. His land stretched from what is now 21st street, to what is currently Christopher Street.
At 131 Christopher Street, in the area once occupied by Warren’s mansion, you’ll now find The Warren, an intimate eatery, serving up simple, yet sophisticated New American cuisine.
Christopher Street was once the heart of New York’s gay life; the original “gay-borhood,” and the landscape was dotted with popular gay bars, gay businesses, and even gay restaurants. A few venerable touchstones remain: The Stonewall Inn is a landmark, happy revelers still belt out show tunes at piano bars like Marie’s Crisis or The Duplex, and The Leatherman still serves up...well...leather!
These days, however, Christopher Street isn’t as exclusively gay. The crowds populating Greenwich Village bars and restaurants now are much more mixed, and such is the case with The Warren.
Having heard of the place from my partner, we made a reservation and headed downtown for dinner. When we arrived, the place was bustling and noisy. The crowd at The Warren skews very young - straight business types knocking about with neighborhood locals, and a few tables of friendly gay diners, so there seemed to be a nice diversity to the clientele, and everyone was having a great time. We were met by the hostess and seated at a little table for two, just across from the semi-open kitchen.
We started with a couple of cocktails: the Warren’s Mule for my partner - vodka, ginger beer, rosemary syrup, and fresh lemon. Refreshing, with an herbal undertone, the lemon gave the drink a nice balance. I ordered the Madriguera, made with Ilegal Mezcal Joven, charred pineapple, chipotle, and lime. The flavor of the mezcal was a bit floral, with a smokey finish, supported nicely by the pineapple, which had been charred on the grill and then puréed. The sweet smokiness was given a kick of heat by the salted rim, which contained dried, ground chipotle pepper. A unique concoction!
As usual, we ordered several appetizers to share. We decided on two of the Small Plates; the Gulf Shrimp, prepared in garlic butter and served with crostini. The shrimp themselves were nicely cooked, tender and sweet. They were lusciously buttery, with a nice garlicky bite that never overpowered. Next we tried the Steak Tartare - minced raw beef mixed with onions, capers and whole grain mustard. The frisee lettuce on the side was dressed simply, with a touch of oil and lemon juice, giving the dish a contrasting hit of acid to cut the richness of the beef. From the Plates, we selected the Truffle Mac & Cheese. Creamy and gooey, made with chives, aged pecorino Romano and ricotta cheeses, and topped with crunchy garlic bread crumbs, the strength of the dish came from its base; a deliciously pungent truffle bechamel, perfumed and flavored with white truffle oil. Next time I hit The Warren, I might just see if I can get an entree portion of that mac & cheese! Perfection!
As we waited for our main courses, one of the servers walked by with one of The Warren’s signature Warren Burgers - a tempting creation, topped with onion jam, frisee lettuce, and a choice of Roquefort, Cheddar or Gruyere cheese. It looked so good, we almost changed our orders, but I knew that wouldn’t make for a very interesting review. Right?
Our entrées arrived. Vincent had chosen the PEI Mussels. Swimming in a smokey tomato broth with garlic and dill, the mussels were tender, with a sweet, briny, understated flavor. The tomato broth was also quite subtle, and made a nice change from the usual preparation of white wine, garlic and butter that one finds elsewhere. Unsure of what to order, I asked Salvador, our friendly server, what his choice would be. He recommended the Niman Ranch Pork Loin, served with heirloom grains, delicata squash, and a juniper jus. Now, while the pork had a good, strong, naturally porky flavor, we both found the loin to be maybe just a tad overcooked - a bit chewy rather than tender. Also, to my palate, the whole dish ate a bit too salty, possibly due to the jus. But these were minor issues, and didn’t prevent me from finishing my meal.
When we asked to see a dessert menu, Salvador told us there were only two offerings. That was actually perfect, so we each ordered one. I chose the Chocolate Cake - an individual flourless chocolate cake, that was moist, spongy, deeply chocolatey, and came topped with a silky chocolate sauce, on a plate dusted with cocoa and powdered sugar. I’m not a big fan of flourless chocolate cakes, but this one was moister than most and not overly sweet or too dense - I enjoyed it very much. Vincent had the Sticky Toffee Pudding, their take on a traditional British dessert, consisting of a sweet, moist, and yes, sticky sponge cake made with finely chopped dates. The pudding came served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which helped balance out the sweetness. Both desserts were house made, rich, and yummy.
Our meal at The Warren was terrific, and despite how busy it was that evening, the service throughout the restaurant was excellent. Orders came out quickly and efficiently, nobody ever appeared to be kept waiting, and we felt well taken care of. Dimitri, the manager, who was doing double duty as bartender, even managed to come out from behind the bar to greet us and some of the other diners. One thing I found remarkable was that so much good food came out of a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet. I asked Salvador if the kitchen was as small as it appeared, and he told us that although there was a cold prep area on the lower level, all of the hot dishes were, in fact, prepared in that tiny space!
The logo for The Warren features a rabbit, and indeed, a warren is a rabbit hole - its home. And The Warren is very homey - the decor features warm wood accents everywhere, as well as shelves full of books, vases filled with dried flowers, and as a nod to Admiral Warren, models of old naval vessels. Add to that the hearty food, unique cocktails, and energetic crowd, and 131 Christopher Street comes to life in a way the Admiral could never have imagined!
Now to go back and grab one of those burgers!!