New Kid on the Block: Houseman

Houseman dining roomWhen chef Ned Baldwin decided to open his own restaurant, he kept asking himself one question: “What’s in the restaurant that I want to go to?” Drawing on fifteen years of working and eating in New York City—including five years at Prune—he came up with Houseman, now open in the former 508 space on Greenwich.

“First and foremost, it’s a neighborhood restaurant,” he says. “I want you to eat here twice a week and not hurt your wallet or be so full you can’t come back for a month. Not that portions are ungenerous! It’s just that some restaurants will kill you with fat and salt.” The menu aims to be both interesting and comforting, because that’s how Baldwin and his co-chef, Adam Baumgart (most recently of Marco’s), eat when they go out. “If a restaurant has a burger we get that and cut it in half,” says Baldwin. “Then we get whatever is weird and split that, too.” An ambitious dish at Houseman might mean conch with pig’s trotters; at the other end of the spectrum are roasted chicken and a burger that Baldwin is very proud of (it serves as a big caveat to the fat-and-salt statement above). “The burger is crazy delicious. It has two patties, both with cheese, and the beef is from Royalton Farms in Vermont. The guy ages entire cows! It’s on a Martin’s potato roll that’s been buttered, with caramelized onions, roast mushrooms, fried rosemary, all chopped up into a… not a relish. It’s a schmear.”

The 60-seat room shifts from bar up front to more of a dining room in the rear. It’s pretty minimal, save for the big piece of driftwood that comes from a North Fork beach. “My son and the architect’s son were using it for a fort, and we stole it from them,” says Baldwin. “They think it’s cool that it’s here.”

Reservations are taken for around half the room, so as to leave a lot of room for walk-ins. “We want to be approachable,” says Baldwin. “That seems to be a theme. Not a hard place to get into, not a hard place to find something you want to eat or drink.” He describes the bar as “post-cocktailian,” with beers you might be unfamiliar with but still like and drinks that have quality ingredients but aren’t overwrought. “I have a rule: No suspenders or beards behind the bar.”

For now, Houseman is serving dinner seven nights a week, with lunch starting Sept 7. There are no plans for delivery, and brunch might be offered as an English-style Sunday roast, with the same menu from 11 a.m. to close. When asked about other future plans, Baldwin says he’d like to do a lot of private parties, either half- or full-buyouts. “I unwittingly started an events company after Prune, and I just think we’re good at it. We make it feel more like a party at someone’s house.”

Houseman is at 508 Greenwich (between Spring and Canal), 212-641-0654;

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  1. Had dinner here last Friday. Nice spot — hope to be back soon.

  2. This has potential, and I’m excited to try it! They might consider adding a vegetarian “entree” into the mix, esp if they want to establish themselves as a regular neighborhood draw.

  3. Grilled or roasted whole fish should either be on the menu or as a regular special,