First Look: Root & Bone, a Modern Southern Spot in Alphabet City
The gist: Call it a Top Chef takeover. Season 5 contestant Jeff McInnis (formerly of Miami's Yardbird) has teamed up with Season 11 competitor Janine Booth to open this cozy Southern eatery on the border of the East Village and Alphabet City. Inspired by McInnis' roots in the Florida panhandle and Alabama, the menu fuses his homestyle American cooking with Booth's more daring, modernist techniques.
The space: "We came in the spring and the place was just alive," says Booth of the East Third St. location. "The vines outside were all dangling down. There was a magical, whimsical feel to the space." After they moved up from Miami, the two gutted and built out the restaurant by hand over a course of ten months, divvying it up into three sections: a take-out counter on the left, main dining room in the center and and bar area on the right. The 40-seat, wood-clad spot is filled with rustic flourishes like vintage school chairs, a collection of 1980s Southern Living cookbooks (straight from grandma's kitchen) and chandeliers made from repurposed whiskey bottles. McInnis sanded down an old door to build the bar and also shaved down animal bones — including one from a whitetail deer shot by his brother — to serve as beer taps.
The food: Many of the recipes come from McInnis' family, but the duo has given the Southern standbys a contemporary spin. "It’s still paying respect to the Southern classics, but it’s something a little more kicked up," says McInnis. "We do a Waldorf salad and instead of serving just an apple, Janine decided to take a sheet of apples and and stuff them." Another example of the retooled comfort food is their take on fried chicken — it's brined in sweet tea and served with dehydrated lemon powder and bourbon Tabasco honey. When the mini market opens, it'll dish up sandwiches (like one with baby root vegetables, homemade ricotta and carrot-top pesto), salads and whole cakes from morning to late night.
The drinks: Along with bourbons and whiskeys, there are also barrel-aged cocktails and more than 60 Old and New World wines on the drinks menu. Every night, they'll host a "tag sale" featuring a $5 glass and $25 bottle. You'll also find a selection of homemade sodas in flavors such as sassafras root beer and cherry at the takeout counter.
The details: 200 E. Third St; 646-682-6080
Photos by Cherie Cincilla