I’m delighted to be sharing a great “A little place I know” today from the lovely Rebecca Norris. Rebecca runs the fabulous lifestyle blog, Florence Finds, covering a whole range of interesting and inspirational subjects, from fashion and interiors to travel and cooking. I love Rebecca’s New York City find, and it’s definitely at top of my list of places to check out when I head over there next.
When I go on holiday I’m always looking for places that the locals love, a little off-the-beaten-tourist-track; those special places that make you feel like an insider, like a local. New York is probably my favourite city aside from my home in Manchester; I’m sure I’m not alone in aspiring to the whole Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle when I think of the Big Apple. The place I’m talking about is more Steve than Mr Big but smacks of local personality and all the quirks of Manhattan’s creative Lower East Side community.
I was lucky enough to receive this recommendation from a friend’s sister who had (at the time) recently lived in New York for a year. Freemans restaurant was one of her ‘must go’ places and certainly lived up to the hype.
Freemans doesn’t take reservations unless for more than six people (always the mark of a popular place), and is situated in the Lower East Side, right next to the Alphabet City of RENT fame. Things have cleaned up a lot since then, but it is still a little edgy so we were a bit nervous when our cab dropped us on one side of a block resembling a ghost town and no restaurant to be seen.
However, a short walk around the corner revealed Freeman Alley, which felt like chancing upon the Leaky Cauldron from Harry Potter. At the end of an alley strung with fairy lights, Freemans was glowing welcomingly as people chatted outside with a cigarette and a drink. We waited all night for a table and actually ended up sitting at the bar out of choice – we had priceless banter from the fabulous bar tender who introduced me to my now favourite cocktail, the French 75, as we feasted on devils on horse back; I swear, they were the best I’ve ever tasted. Behind us, the clientele was boisterous, and the atmosphere bohemian. The restaurant felt more like an English pub, with cobbled together tables and chairs that didn’t match in a rabbit warren-like series of rooms; people were sitting on anything they could find, clustered together and enjoying their evening.
Suffice to say, I don’t remember much of that night but I remember the mains (described as rustic American cuisine) being fabulous, so when I returned with my best friend just under a year later I was desperate to take her there. Cue another night, just as good as the first, with the atmosphere unchanged and the insider secret maintained. The first time we tried to go, Freemans was closed due to a private event, but they kindly directed us three blocks north to their new restaurant, Peels. Although it had only been open a week or two and was consequently quiet, this was another place with a stonkingly impressive cocktail list and a cool, if slightly more polished, atmosphere. Peels is billed as a diner with a Southern-inspired menu, and if you’re not afraid of fried food it’s definitely worth a stop.
Freemans has now become one of those legendary places that instantly puts a smile on my face when remembered and makes me yearn to go back. Its one of those places that’s so good that you don’t really want to share the secret. So don’t all go at once, will you?