First Impressions: Telepan Local

Telepan Loal corner tableOne of the nice things about writing these First Impressions posts is that I’m completely justified in showing up earlier than my dining companions, so I can sit at the bar, order a cocktail—even on a Sunday—and take some quick notes. I always intend to try something from the specialty cocktail menu, but there’s usually some ingredient I don’t want in my drink. At Telepan Local, I did decide to test the bartenders, though, by ordering a Boulevardier: It’s a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Never thought I’d be the kind of person who makes bartenders do that kind of thing, but it really is a lovely winter cocktail.

My bad for not telling the bartender that Boulevardiers are served up; his bad for putting a straw in it.

As you should already know—I first wrote about it a year ago—Telepan Local is the new restaurant from chef Bill Telepan, in the old Industria Argentina space on Greenwich. Telepan is known for his restaurant, Telepan, on the Upper West Side; for sourcing locally before it was trendy; and for being nice. In 2011, he briefly tested out Tribeca with a pop-up that only I called Telepécan because it took over Pécan at night.

While I was sitting at the bar wishing I hadn’t worn a plaid shirt (like the staff does), the hostess came over. I had told her that I was meeting people at 7 p.m., and she wanted to know how many we’d be so she could “make sure we have a table for you.” Telepan Local doesn’t take reservations for parties under six, so this was very welcome behavior.

The space is classic long-and-narrow Tribeca. To break it up, they’ve dropped the ceiling in front, where the bar is, and created beveled cavities (for lack of a better word) with lights inside; the dining room, in the rear, walks the refined/rustic line that’s popular these days. There’s a lot of wood and subway tiles, and the angles are funky; I haven’t been to Telepan in a few years, but I don’t recall it being nearly this frisky. Telepan Local had an après-ski vibe, like we were at a ski resort in the French Alps in the 1970s, a feeling that only grew when I saw the coat rack (pegs lined up in a narrow hallway) and felt the temperature in the dining room. It was warm to hot; layers were removed. Last Sunday was—relatively!—warm, so maybe the building’s heat hadn’t adjusted, or maybe our proximity to the window looking into the kitchen was the problem. Both bottles of red wine we ordered were also warm, however, something that’s harder to excuse.

Telepan Local menuThe menu is small plates, with far more vegetable options than at most restaurants. Telepan is among the chefs whose sourcing I trust to be humane, but many of the meat choices were challenging—sweetbreads, tongue, escargot, foie gras “jammers”—and anyway, one of my companions is a strict vegetarian. We ordered the following:

• Grilled cheese “pan con tomate”
• Cheese ball with “riss” crackers
• Carrots with feta and oregano
• Roasted beets with housemade ricotta and honey
• Sunchoke and mushroom salad
• Fried watercress with cashews and chili oil
• Fluke crudo with fermented radishes and celery
• Sourdough pizzette with Brussels sprouts, Pecorino Toscano, and sage
• Sourdough pizzette with bacon, jalapeño, red onion, and mozzarella
• Grilled beef short ribs with spicy fermented cabbage
• Coconut cake
• Peanut butter sundae with chocolate-dipped pretzels
• Pear tart

Portions are indeed small. I look forward to having some favorites on the menu, so I can know what we should order in multiples. As it was, I often didn’t get quite enough for many of the dishes to make a huge impression. I can say that nothing was disappointing; that I was still thinking about the grilled cheese, fried watercress, and coconut cake the next day; that I liked the pizza much more than I expected to (wish it were bigger); and that I don’t need to eat raw mushrooms ever again. Telepan and his team seem to be having fun—see the shrimp poppers and pigs-in-blankets—and our server said the offerings would change often. Ultimately, it struck me as a neighborhood restaurant: The food, while worthy, wasn’t the creative, interesting kind you’d travel across the city for. If that means we can dine at Telepan Local without a long wait, all the better.

P.S. There was no bread service—weird at this kind of restaurant?—so we asked and they brought us some (which was nice because it was good!).

Telepan Local is at 329 Greenwich (between Jay and Duane), 212-966-9255;

Telepan Local barTelepan Local room2Telepan Local ceilingTelepan Local grilled cheeseTelepan Local cheese ballTelepan Local grilled carrotsTelepan Local sunchokesTelepan Local pizzetteTelepan Local fried watercressTelepan Local short ribTelepan Local coconut cakeRecent New Kid on the Block/First Impressions articles:
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  1. I had a lovely dinner there on Friday and the après-ski vibe was very strong with all the snow and ladies in fur boots.

    The standout items for me were the foie jammers and the watercress. The sweetbreads and arancini were a bit bland but I look forward to trying out more of the menu. The service was pleasant but not intrusive. The kitchen was maybe a bit too quick pushing out the food. Next time I’m there I will ask that they send things out a little more slowly–our two-top had 7 dishes plus dessert in about 90 minutes.

  2. My husband and I dined there last Saturday night. We thought the place was lovely, but agree with you that the portions are minuscule (even when ordered in multiples). We too were shocked that there was no bread service, especially in light of the small servings!