Seasonally-driven restaurants abound in New York City, but if there’s one specifically made for those lucky 1% who own beautiful townhouses in the West Village, then it would be Loring Place. Dan Kluger is the chef here, and you may of heard of him due to his prior stint at ABC Kitchen, another popular farm-to-table restaurant frequented by the well-heeled. You can expect the same sort of pretty, air-brushed aesthetic at Loring Place, although thankfully there’s less of the fussiness of ABC Home’s signature ornate chandeliers and woodwork. The restaurant is named after a street in the Bronx where Kluger’s father once lived, so it’s a little more down-to-earth. But you will still see plenty of those picture perfect ladies who lunch drinking mimosas and rose all around you.
Kluger’s strength is in extracting full value out of seasonal produce, and he doesn’t disappoint at Loring Place. If you see a plate of sugar snap peas, for instance, you know that those pods will be crisper, sweeter and more vibrant than any sugar snap pea pods you’ve had in recent memory. I feel like he cooks with the joy of knowing how much the flavors and textures of just produce alone can bring to the table. One dish that truly brings out the best in all vegetables is the baked ricotta with ramps, fava beans and pistachio pesto. No bite was the same, and there were so many layers to peel back. Sometimes you got a little piece of mint, other times the sharpness of a red onion came through, but whatever the outcome, it was truly a pleasure.
All this talk of well-heeled ladies and veggies must make the food at Loring Place sound a bit dainty, but Kluger usually puts a little meat on the vegetable bones with a well placed addition of cheese or cream. And, just so you know, there are plenty of robust proteins or carbs to choose from. If you had to narrow it down to one, I would highly recommend the grandma-style pan pizza. With a name like this, the pizza comes with high expectations–because whose cooking is better than your grandma’s?–but it absolutely exceeds them. Imagine the pan pizza of your youth, only with a crust that is lighter with billowy air pockets that keep things nimble, and with a tomato sauce that tastes real and fresh, and with a cheese that is on the opposite spectrum of overly processed. Normally grandma tries to fatten you up with her food, but this version of her pie will leave room for other things without skimping on flavor.
In a restaurant run by a man of Kluger’s talent, you might find yourself debating between two interesting entrees like the pekin duck or the cornmeal crusted skate. Why would you ever settle on something so basic as the cheeseburger? But there’s a reason why basic has such wide appeal. This cheeseburger is pretty close to perfect, a little too perfect and refined, maybe, if I can find any shortcoming with it. It doesn’t seize you as immediately with a deliciously buttery bun or an especially juicy patty spilling over with sauce like the burger at Pizza Loves Emily, but despite the restraint you know that this is a great burger. That’s generally the case with all the food at Loring Place. No hair is ever out of place, much like those ladies with perfect blowouts lunching around you. It might not be the place for those who like to let their hair down a little, but everything tastes as good as it looks.
21 W 8th St (between 5th and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
Recommendations: baked ricotta, grandma-style pan pizza, cheeseburger