A restaurant doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to offer a great meal. In fact, these days, with a small baby, going out some place fancy will be few and far between. A place like Spiegel, nestled in East Village/Lower East Side, is perfect for a delicious meal in a casual setting, without compromising on quality and taste.
I’d consider Spiegel to be a casual restaurant that is open early (7 am) until late (1 am). The mornings feature amazing coffee and house made croissants, best enjoyed around the semi-circular bar. And your lunch and dinner rangers from a tasty burger with crispy fries to a schnitzel plate with rice and a side of your choosing (go for the cumin roasted beets).
A little more on the coffee. Owner Shmulik Avital brings in coffee from California roaster Verve, which boasts rich, somewhat sweet coffee, that is only available on the east coast at Spiegel (for now anyway).
The friendly and inviting environment was on full display in my visit. Many around the bar knew each other, or if they didn’t, they were already friends. Spiegel seeks to be a neighborhood spot where you can gather to watch soccer or tennis on the big screen, while peering through into the open kitchen below. The beer and wine selection is also quite nice, with many of my favorites in the brew departments (Dale’s Pale Ale and Guinness).
I sampled a number of appetizers, salads, entrees and sides, as well as several desserts cooked up by the chef. I’ll dive into some of my favorites…
The baked feta comes out in a warm skillet with a smokey, spicy tomato and eggplant sauce with olives, served with warm pita. This is a nice sharing plate for you and your friends. The zucchini fritters were lightly battered and very flavorful paired with tzatziki sauce and a small arugula salad — you know, to make you feel like the fried food is more healthy. The salad I enjoyed most was the kale salad, which featured a number of other fresh veggies and a pomegranate vinaigrette.
As for the entrees and the accompanying sides, the grilled salmon with crispy potatoes, roasted fennel and tomato chimichurri was a winner. I might prefer the salmon rare, but the potatoes were how I like them. The schnitzel plate is enormous, as is EVERYTHING (whose complaining there) and the chicken is perfectly crisp and adds a touch of spice. The sides include cumin roasted beets, Moroccan carrots and broccoli with tihini. Each one is quite large, so order accordingly.
The dessert that I favored most was the baked apple pie/tart. It is full of apple and cinnamon goodness surrounded by a warm crisp crust. Add ice cream and I think I could eat it forever.
If you’re in the mood for an inviting casual restaurant, where everyone will know your name (well, in due time), then Spiegel is the place for you. And if you really love the best espresso around with a fresh croissant, then this is definitely the place for you!