The Financial District is a marginally less frustrating version of Herald Square. Like Herald Square, it is often teeming with tourists, and it is therefore often impossible to navigate the streets without either mowing down tourists or finding yourself stuck in the middle of a congested sidewalk, seething with hanger.
Although there are plenty of places to eat in FiDi, it’s not always easy to find somewhere exciting to eat. There’s many a casual bar or pub, and if you want full upscale you can certainly find it. It’s a tall order, however, to find a place with good food, a decent selection of drinks, plenty of space to sit, reasonable prices, and an atmosphere that makes you feel jovial, warm and welcome.
A place that, should you visit it on your lunch break, makes you think, “I’m so glad I bothered coming to work today because it’s almost lunchtime!” rather than, “I guess I’ll just find somewhere to put food in my face so I don’t pass out at my desk and get fired.”
But like almost everywhere in New York, FiDi is going through a transformation. Hope is on the horizon that its bars and eateries will figure out how to capitalize on the neighborhood’s historic opulence, without retaining any Patrick Bateman-esque vibes. One such beacon of hope is The Malt House. The Malt House’s FiDi location is pretty much everything a stylish Wall Street joint should be. Warm tones, a majestic three-level space and modern comfort food come together to make this restaurant a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
The restaurant’s first branch opened in Greenwich Village in 2012, and owners Darren Shore and Eoin Foyle set their sights on expansion. It was an ambitious project given the initial state of the property and the scope of the owners’ plans; ultimately, it was admirably executed with the help of designer Neil Blackwell.
The FiDi location takes the framework of The Malt House’s original iteration to the next level. It’s bigger, more upscale, and Chef Armando Avila–who is responsible for dishes at both locations–seems to have used the real estate upgrade in FiDi to take welcome risks with the menu.
Though the restaurant’s menu is constantly evolving, it’s safe to say that you’ll find most crave-worthy American classics available for lunch, brunch and dinner. The Malt House’s Wagyu House Blend Burger is exceptional on every level. Its genius lies in top-notch ingredients just as much as it does in expert preparation. It’s a beautiful showcase of Chef Armando’s talents.
The meat blend is seasoned with little else than salt, and it doesn’t need anything else. Paired with the juicy premium burger, the softness of the brioche and subtle crunch of the bacon create the perfect blend of textures. Every detail is well-executed–even the homemade pickles, which are sweet with a spicy kick. Pace yourself so you have room to indulge in the hand-cut fries, which are also quite delicious on their own.
The Blackened Alaskan Salmon Po Boy is another standout entree. So many restaurants approach blackened chicken and fish as an opportunity to char the living daylights out of a protein. Fortunately, The Malt House’s version salvages the method with tender salmon and just the right amount of Cajun seasoning.
Though chicken is typically the least interesting dish on a restaurant’s menu, make sure to try the Pan Roasted Chicken Au Jus. It’s an unexpected dish at a place mainly characterized by contemporary American tavern fare, but it more than deserves its spot on the menu. Not only is the presentation artful and gorgeous; the chicken itself is heavenly. If you can fit a little bit of the chicken, mushrooms, creamy mashed potatoes and sauteed kale on one forkful, you’ll be in for a truly satisfying bite.
Addictive snacks are also a prevailing theme at The Malt House, particularly the Buttermilk Bites. These are delicate little nuggets of fried chicken, which you may alternately dip in ranch dressing and cilantro jalapeño aioli until you’re ready for a 12-step program.
The Crab and Artichoke Dip is yet another delectable treat worthy of sharing or hogging all to yourself. This creamy, indulgent dip is served with crisp plantain chips, and it’s another demonstration of Chef Avila’s light touch with traditionally heavy dishes.
If by some miracle you’re not ready to roll yourself home after your entree, Pastry Chef Francisco Gonzalez has joined The Malt House team to craft homemade desserts. The restaurant overall does well at bringing out the rich flavor of dishes without overbearing diners with heavy texture (or grease).
Chef Gonzalez does an admirable job of carrying this theme into the dessert realm. From crepes to donuts to chocolate mousse, there is more or less something for everyone (everyone, that is, who hasn’t already called it a day after eating 3 orders of Buttermilk Bites).
Visit The Malt House to make reservations, learn about the Happy Hour, or to plan a private party at the restaurant.
– Naakai Addy