New Kid on the Block: Filé Gumbo Bar

Eric McCree worked in restaurants all through high school and college, but when the time came to pick a career, he went with music. And for the past 12 years, he’s been here in the city (he’s 35) working as an audio engineer for Disney tours and then Broadway shows (forced to pick a favorite: Jekyll & Hyde with Deborah Cox).

Till covid. And that’s when his original choice — entertainment or culinary — came back into focus. He has now opened Filé Gumbo Bar, a product of his grandfather’s recipes and his love of cooking and hospitality.

“I always thought I would do this once I retired,” Eric said. “But I decided to make the big jump once the entertainment world shut down.”

During the quarantine, he headed upstate to spend time with his family, and there started catering dinners as a way to test recipes. Next thing he knew he was catering bigger and bigger events, turning his sister’s home into a commercial kitchen for the time he was there. He loved it.

The concept for a restaurant, which had been on the back burner (literally) soon took shape. Eric grew up in Boise, Idaho, but his grandfather — Tiny Gaines — loved the food of the south and passed that on to Eric. So after his time upstate, he made a pilgrimage to Louisiana to study the cooking, from New Orleans to Lake Charles to Shreveport. And he incorporated a feature of the Oyster Bar in the Palace Station Casino that he saw as a kid in Vegas: steam kettles that kept gumbo and Italian Cioppino stewing all night.

He calls his menu home cooking, but elevated for a New York City palate. It’s both for the uninitiated and the natives: he designed his kitchen and his menu so you can order it just like home. The steam kettles at the bar allow them to make a gumbo base that can be modified the way you like it.

“People think of gumbo so differently and are really passionate about it, but it’s really just based on the way you grow up,” Eric says. For example, filé, the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree, is an essential ingredient in Cajun cooking. But Creole gumbo also has tomatoes, which is never in Cajun gumbo. “We can customize the menu to guest preference. We can essentially make their favorite food. And it creates a chef and guest interaction – like a chef’s table.”

He brought in an award-winning beverage director from South Carolina — Kevin Reid — then honed in on Tribeca for a location. He wanted to cook this food, his way, in place that maybe you wouldn’t expect it. “This food is not just for southerners. I wanted to make this a place for people to try the cuisine, but also make everyone’s perfect bowl just the way they like it.”

The food is rich, fresh and hearty. I added shrimp to my collard greens salad; we loved the vegetarian or green gumbo. The space is beautiful and classic, with yellow highlights, and the vibe is excellent. Even early on, there was a very lively, friendly crowd, plus it makes a big difference when the owner is in the room. It just feels more welcoming. Next time I am definitely sitting at the bar where the action is at and coming back for the chicken & beignets for brunch. See the menu here. The prices are in the mid-Tribeca range: $29 for gumbo, $15 for the southern whiskey sour, their signature.

The pandemic, oddly, made it all possible. Without it, he wouldn’t have had the time to start cooking and couldn’t have afforded the space, Eric said. “When a door closes…”

Filé Gumbo Bar
275 Church | White & Franklin
(917) 540-6268
Lunch: Wednesday – Sunday 11a – 3p
Dinner: Wednesday – Sunday 4 – 10:30p
Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 11a – 3p
Happy Hour: Wednesday – Friday 4 – 6p



1 Comment

  1. Love to try this out , sounds great !
    I put my information in because I don’t want to miss out on this culinary experience!
    My grandson 12yrs old is an expiring chef !
    So I’m supporting in him in his steps forward !!