First Impressions: Little Park

The NoHo Hospitality Group‘s restaurants tend to be easy to describe: I wouldn’t need more than a few words to paint a decent picture of Locanda Verde, Lafayette, or Bar Primi. As for NHG’s new establishment, Little Park at the Smyth hotel, it serves New American small plates and…. Well…. I mean, at The Dutch, chef Andrew Carmellini riffed off American regional food. At Little Park, there’s kind of an emphasis on vegetables.

“Who cares if you can’t describe it?” asked Adam. “I just want it to be good!”

I first went for breakfast, because I knew photos would be easier to take. The design firm Gachot traded Plein Sud’s rustic French atmosphere for something a little Scandinavian and a little Northern Californian (the ceramic dishes and hanging plants are very Steven Alan Home). It’s light and comfortable and awash in textures: mosaic floor, marble wainscoting, crinkled paper place mats, and fabric panels on the ceiling and between the booths. And there are a lot of booths and banquettes—no table has just chairs. It called to mind a diner—especially the booths that seat two—but then again, I was having breakfast. Overall, I thought the room was pretty and fresh, and that it was the best design I’d seen in a while. (That was before I went to the Smyth’s redone lobby and bar, also run by NHG, but more on that in another post.) Classic jazz on the stereo, covetable art on the walls, and adorable miniature pepper mills on the tables…. If there’s a lovelier breakfast spot in Tribeca, I don’t know it.

As for the food, the prices at breakfast are shockingly reasonable for a hotel, and the savory porridge with poached eggs, hen of the woods mushrooms, and bread crumbs was delicious.

That same night, Adam and I met some friends for dinner. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I have lost all patience with calling for a reservation (you can’t book online yet) and being told I could come at 5:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. So I had emailed the PR rep, who very nicely found room for us. I prefer to be anonymous, but I would have been identified anyway—a Little Park manager used to work at North End Grill, and those folks have uncanny facial-recognition skills.

The restaurant was buzzing when we arrived at 8:30 p.m., and there was none of Locanda Verde’s infamous front-desk attitude. We had to wait, which happens—one more reason to eat early, if you ask me—but with the bar at capacity, there’s nowhere near the front door to loiter. We hovered a little awkwardly by the connecting door to the hotel.

The lights are dimmer and the dish towel napkins at breakfast are replaced with nicer ones, but otherwise, the vibe is not much more formal at dinner. When the server explained that dishes are meant to be shared and they’ll come out in no particular order, we deflated. I don’t mind that sort of thing when I’m with Adam, but it’s less appealing when you go with people you know less well—such as for a business meal, which seems likely at a hotel. Deciding what to order is a negotiation, and anyone with food issues makes it extra hard: If the vegetarian doesn’t want his rightful fourth of a dish, then he should get an extra fourth of something else. But what? (Heaven forbid the GF and the paleo join you.) Moreover, you’re left taking your piece of, say, hanger steak, and dredging it through your portion of green sauce, always trying to make sure you’re sticking to your allotment. When portions are bigger—I mean family-style—then the system works fine, but when the plates get dainty (as at Little Park), it’s unsatisfying if more than two people are sharing. How was the fried cauliflower? Really good, I think, from two bites I got. I’m sorry to unleash a rant on Little Park when it’s hardly the first or only offender, but can someone tell me what has fundamentally changed in restaurant kitchens that increasingly makes this the norm? Might restaurants at least offer the option of coursing the meal out?

Besides the fried cauliflower, the standouts were the crispy Brussels sprouts, roasted sunchokes, and black kale ravioli. The hanger steak was what it was; the black bass and butternut squash with burrata didn’t excite anyone; and the beet risotto was almost too salty to eat. We all agreed that we’d happily come back and explore the rest of the menu. (And we’ll save room for dessert: The chocolate-rye cake and cinnamon-toast ice cream were fantastic.)

So how would I describe Little Park? It’s a bright, fresh, not-too-fancy, all-day restaurant serving thoughtful but not-too-ambitious New American food. In fewer words? Lack of coursing aside, it’s exactly what south Tribeca needs.

Note: Lunch and brunch service will start soon.

Little Park is at 85 W. Broadway (at Chambers), 212-220-4110;

Little Park doorLittle Park barLittle Park tablesLittle Park tables2 Little Park kale ravioliLittle Park chocolate rye cakeLittle Park cinnamon toast ice creamRecent New Kid on the Block / First Impressions articles:
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  1. How was the noise level? Could you easily have a conversation?

  2. Interior looks nice. Dinner menu looks completely boring and incomplete though.

  3. use a real camera, your iPhone makes the food look bad

  4. Went last night for an early 5:30pm dinner.
    The room is beautful and the service was great
    Food was excellent overall. Loved the Brussels sprouts and the sunchokes. The kale ravioli was a tad salty as was the chicken but I assume they were at the mercy of an overenthusiastic Sioux chef and will be more consistent in future. The lobster was fantastic. The frozen lemon dessert with gelato was out of this world.
    Had a great time and will definitely go back.

    • Ps Erik I think the sharing format works very well for smaller groups of 2-4 people. They recommend 2-3 plates per person and my wife and I enjoyed the opportunity to share and try everything. I agree that with larger groups this is more of an issue and would double down on plates to compensate for portion size

  5. Agree on many points. I called several times and was told they were fully booked and twice we walked right in at 8 and got seated. They can be nicer for being right over the chambers street subway location… The menu is too small and uninventive to get me to go a third time.

  6. A small group of us went last night as well. We had an 8p reservation but were not seated until 8:30p (we snagged a seat at the bar to have a cocktail while we waited). Because we did wait 30 minutes to be seated the manager sent over a round of the fluke app and then the whole wheat spaghetti on the house which I thought was nice to make up for the wait.

    Agree a million times over that the chocolate-rye cake and cinnamon-toast ice cream were fantastic!!!

    Also really liked the veggies (cauliflower & sunchokes) as well as the ravioli and duck – Id definitely go back.