Tipsy Parson

(New York, NY) — After an early morning flight from Grand Rapids to New York City, we hoof it to the Chelsea neighborhood with our friends Cookie and LettersToJ for lunch. It’s windy and chilly out, but at least the sun is shining. The thought of warm food with southern flair at Tipsy Parson sounds pretty good. We enter to the smell of something delicious cooking somewhere in the back...

He Fed:

The hostess collects our coats and shows us to a table in the near empty restaurant. I’m happy to have a bit of space to relax during our first meal. It’s the first time in the city for Cookie and LettersToJ, so Juliet and I are anxious to show them the better side of Manhattan. This seems like a great place to start. The sun shining in through the front windows makes everything look sleepy. Too bad the bookshelves on the wall are just wallpaper patterns.

Right off the bat, I’m down for some craft beer. I order a pint of the Smuttynose IPA, which is solidly hoppy but not that memorable. We’re in no hurry so we decide to start with some apps and go from there. The fried pickles are crusted in cornmeal, too crispy for my taste, even when dipped in the spicy buttermilk dressing. Hush puppies, however, delight with snappy skin and an airy, moist interior. I am guilty of slathering them with warm pimento cheese that might as well be crack cocaine. Someone selects a fried green tomato with tomato vinaigrette but I don’t even bother with a bite. I do manage to squeak in one nibble of the baby brussels sprouts with spiced pecans and sweet sorghum glaze. They’re decent, though I would have preferred more caramelly char on the sprouts.

About this time, I’m aware of a few things. The waitress is less than attentive and makes us feel slightly rushed, as if she wants to turn the table quickly, but the restaurant is never even half full at any time during our visit. She doesn’t ask to refill our drink orders, either; we must track her down. One of us overhears it might be her first day, so maybe she hasn’t found the rhythm of service yet. I also see the hostess spend an inordinate time staring at her cell phone. A couple other customers have to get her attention in order to pay their bills or even get service. One couple sat at their table for easily 15 minutes before anyone took notice. Even though the menu isn’t what I’d call extensive, we are told some of the items are not in stock, like the Bourbon Chicken Liver Mousse. Something’s amiss here... slightly off-kilter.

Regardless, I need some substantial food and I’m in the mood for beef. I get the Pimento Cheeseburger, medium rare, with thick slabs of bacon. It’s cooked very black and crispy on the outside, and more medium than rare inside. Still, it’s not bad. The bacon adds a bit of salty chew, while the potato bun lends sweetness. It’s a big burger, even if slightly dry from lack of blood.

We finish our drinks and signal for the check. It would have been nice to loiter a bit more but despite its promise of southern charm and hospitality, Tipsy Parson left me as cold as a late February day in New York.
She Fed:

A colleague recommends Tipsy Parson and once I learn they feature Southern fare and boast “belly filling goodness”, I know we have to go. It’s a frigid walk in the gusty February wind, despite temps in the upper 30's. Just as I’m wondering if we'll make it, the restaurant appears. Inside, it's intimate with wooden benches and tables along one wall and a massive bar along the other. We’re a few minutes early for our reservation but are seated immediately.

We start with a trio of appetizers: shrimp and grits, hush puppies, and fried pickles. I have a glass of cava while the others go with beer. In short order, our apps arrive. The pickles are coated in a cornmeal crust and served with buttermilk dressing for dipping. I love a super-crunchy cornmeal coating, but Jeremy finds it overly crunchy. I think he uses the word “sand paper” actually. No mind, I love these pickles.

The hush puppies are incredibly good, with a crisp exterior and comforting doughy interior. The pimento cheese on the side is fairly average. I am admittedly a pimento cheese snob, favoring either Zingermann’s when I’m buying it or Chef Linton Hopkins’ recipe when I’m making it at home. I had the pleasure of working with Hopkins on a video shoot and was gobsmacked when he offered me the recipe. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Tipsy Parsons’ pimento cheese; it’s just not as piquant and jazzy as I prefer.

Our final appetizer is creamy, rich grits, bright and briny shrimp, a fried green tomato slice, and a tousle of greens all piled on the plate. This is belly filling goodness! Cookie and I seem to like this one more than the boys.

Instead of a main, I decide to order sides of the Brussels sprouts and mac and cheese. Our server offers to upsize the mac and cheese to an entree and I agree without thinking. The entree portion is much too large, even for a mac and cheese hound like me; I end up leaving half of it behind. It’s penne in lush cheese sauce with buttery crumbs baked on top. Pretty much heaven baked in a skillet.

The sprouts are teeny tiny, glazed in sorghum syrup then tossed with spiced pecans. These are the Brussels sprouts that make you question why you hated them as a kid. I think I actually eat more sprouts than mac and cheese today, they’re that ridiculously tasty.

Our server was spot-on at the start, but is now struggling to keep up with tables and orders. We are left to wait for drink refills, plates to be cleared, and our check. Jeremy and LettersToJ are bothered by this lack of attention, but I’ll come back. After all, we never even tried the bourbon chicken liver mousse!

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