New York, NY 10001
212 685 4500
M-Th 7:30am-12am; F 7:30am-1am; Sa 10am-1am; Su 10am-12am
1900 Broadway; 956 Second Avenue; 55 Third Avenue; Washington D.C.
Having grown up in Manhattan, Jeffrey Lefcourt knew the area well. Having been around restaurants since his summers as a busboy in high school, he also knew the industry well. Therefore, when he decided to open The Smith in 2007, a venture preceded by his founding of the restaurant Jane in 2001, he knew what he wanted. “It had to be accessible with high-quality food,” Jeff reasoned. Nine years later he was onto his fourth location, this time in Nomad, on Broadway with an entrance on a side street.
When I visited on a casual Wednesday afternoon in the summer of 2016, just months after its opening, the three-hundred-seat restaurant was nearly at capacity. “It’s really become an amenity for the neighborhood,” Jeff explained, comparing the timelessness of his establishments to a favorite pair of blue jeans. He later showed me that the new location was already the eighth most-booked New York City restaurant on Open Table. Numbers one and two? The Smith – Lincoln Center and The Smith – Midtown.
The Nomad crowd was embracing a comfortable and classic ambience set by the wooden-slabbed ceiling, black-and-white mosaic patterned floor, and sunlight pouring through the wide-opened doors, accented to peak brightness by custom light fixtures. There is a massive bar shelving one of the largest alcohol collections I have seen, with another one intimately situated in a private room reserved for special festivities. Downstairs, there is a photo booth awaiting guests wanting to document their experience with friends or family.
In the kitchen, the fires burned high, tantalizing scents fumed, and the large staff was motivated by a booming voice that reverberated orders as they came through. “Fish sandwich at the bar with French fries,” said the man behind the voice as the cooks kept to their rhythm, each invested in the plates that would soon walk out the door. “It takes a lot of people,” Jeff smiled. Nearly everything on the menu is made from scratch, and the French fries alone require hours and hours of peeling, cutting and frying to have them just right. Admittedly Jeff’s favorite item on the menu, this crispy side accompanies the Burger Royale, a double patty burger so beloved in Nomad that it was introduced to all locations. The facial expression of our photographer, Tom, once he took his first bite said it all.
The vegetarian Vegetable Bibimbap, the vibrant Seared Tuna Salad, and The Royale, an illustrious triple-tiered raw bar platter, each stand on their own. Plated on a bed of charred corn with summer greens, the Mahi Mahi offers refreshing seasonality in the summertime, and the spoonable, skillet roasted Mac and Cheese starter garners the most circulation on Instagram. A standout from the bar was the Moscow Mule on tap.
The successes of The Smith restaurants lie not only in their inviting environments, complimentary purified water, drinks on tap, or comforting cuisine sourced from local farmers and fishermen, but also in their commitment to authentic service. “The Smith is a maker. We are making experiences,” Jeff reinforced, “…It is all about giving people what they are looking for and connecting with them.” When guests were upset that the winter salad did not make it onto the springtime menu, a slightly tweaked seasonal version was added. The adjustment became so popular that Jeff was afraid to take it off the menu. It is exactly that adaptability that enables the affable owner to perform his favorite part of the job each day – “making people smile.”