If there’s one place the food-allergic community seems to love, it’s Blue Smoke. I’ve read lots about them, but it wasn’t until today that I decided (spur of the moment) to go. I typically don’t eat at restaurants that handle nuts, but I figured I’d take advantage of my recent restaurant-trying momentum and give this one a chance. They do have a reputation of being very allergy-aware, after all—so to Battery Park City I went.
To start, the atmosphere, in general, was not for me; it was dark, noisy, and decorated with lots of lumber (???), with loud country music and two too-bright flatscreens above the bar. But I’ve dealt with worse, so I figured I’d manage. (Hey, if they can handle my allergy, I can handle their atmosphere, right?)
As far as I know, only one item on the dinner menu at the Battery Park City location contains tree nuts: the sweet potato mash (it’s topped with pecans). A couple of desserts contain nuts, too, but I tend to stay away from those anyway. I was assured by my server, though, that I didn’t have to worry about any sort of cross-contamination—so all that was left to do was dig in and find out. (Well, that and decide what I wanted.)
I ended up going with the cornbread madeleines (pictured above) and the fried chicken & biscuits. Sam, along for the ride, ordered the pulled pork—they were out of ribs (?!?)—with a side of mac and cheese and a side of baked beans. Our server, after double-checking with the kitchen, assured me that all the dishes we’d chosen would arrive completely free from nuts—and to my delight, that they did.
The madeleines were definitely my favorite. They were warm and light, with that lovely cornbread texture, and they came with some sort of maple-butter sauce, which was what really sealed the deal. These things were so good that I seriously considered ordering another portion to take home with me and hoard, but (fortunately) our entrees arrived and redirected my attention before I could get the chance to do so.
The fried chicken was good, but it wasn’t out-of-this-world good. It came with slaw and a biscuit, and when I put the three together, the flavors played together nicely (duh), but nothing on that plate had me thinking, “hey, I’m really glad I spent $28 on this.” Sam’s pulled pork was equally decent (or so I’m told; I didn’t actually get around to trying it), but he didn’t feel it was particularly worth his $30, either.
Don’t get me wrong; nothing brought out to us was bad—but it’s tough to rally behind an average-quality plate of food when it comes at a not-so-average price. Still, I’d probably return to Blue Smoke, should I ever end up with a little extra money. As promised, the handled my allergies well…and those madeleines were delicious.
There were only two minor hiccups over the course of the entire meal. The first: I wasn’t given a nut-free menu (though it didn’t matter much, as it was the food that I needed to be nut-free, not the menu itself). Still, I was a little surprised, as I’d read a lot about Blue Smoke’s allergen-free menus. The second: a server (not our server, whom I’d told about my allergy) brought out a complimentary taste of something, with no word on whether it was safe. (It was, so it wasn’t a big deal—but I would have liked to have been told, if only for the level of allergy-awareness that would’ve shown me.)
Overall, though, I had a pretty good experience at Blue Smoke. The service was great, and neither the food nor the atmosphere killed me—so the night goes down as a success in my book (or would that be “on my blog”?). All things considered, I suppose I’d recommend Blue Smoke to a nut-allergic friend—but only if said nut-allergic friend were wealthy enough not to scoff at a $30 plate of fried chicken.
(Blue Smoke has two New York City locations: One in the Flatiron District [116 East 27th Street], and one in Battery Park City [255 Vesey Street]. I’ve only been to the latter—and only once, at that—but I suppose I’ll have to try the other, too. Maybe they’ll have ribs.)
[Edit: I’ve since eaten at Blue Smoke a bunch more times, and I’ve decided that this post was terribly unfair. Since its writing, I’ve tried the spare ribs, the baby back ribs, the brisket, and the biscuits, and I’m now 100% prepared to declare that I was wrong, and that Blue Smoke is actually pretty damn awesome. All of their servers are extremely friendly and helpful—and what I like best about them is that they’ll never, ever give you an answer they aren’t sure of. They’re the kings and queens of “let me check on that for you,” which goes such a long way in making me feel safe.
Also, the restaurant’s way more affordable than I’d realized. For under $50 (including tax and tip), Sam and I get a big plate of Blue Smoke’s three best meats (baby back ribs, spare ribs, and brisket), along with two sides of our choosing. It’s more than enough to feed two—and for the portion (and quality of service), I’d say the price is pretty reasonable. I prefer the baby back ribs to the spare ribs, but both are great (better than the fried chicken, no doubt), and the brisket, absurdly tender, is straight-up delicious, too. Also, their biscuits—which count as a side, though they aren’t listed with the rest of the sides—are perhaps the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten.
Plus, they now give me an allergen menu (without prompting!) as soon as I sit down—and I’m hardly a regular. Incredible. The end.]