When Northern Spy Food Co. opened in the East Village in 2009, it immediately felt like a neighborhood institution, something that had grown organically with the greening and cleaning up of Alphabet City. For some, the grime east of Tompkins Square Park was part of the charm, one of the last gritty parts of lower Manhattan; for the newer implants, the arrival of a seasonally-minded restaurant, one that proudly (some might say obnoxiously) wears its purveyors on its sleeve, couldn’t come soon enough.
The interesting thing about Northern Spy Food Co. has been its insistence on maintaining a low profile, preferring to blend into the community rather than shine above it. Despite a glowing New York Times write-up in 2010 and constant appearances on “Best Of” roundups, Northern Spy Food Co. tends to eschew the spotlight, favoring homey Sunday Suppers and a lunch delivery service over glitzy publicity stunts and a haughty hostess stand. Really, the only pretentious thing about the place is their aforementioned insistence on listing farms and purveyors, but even that can be construed as earnest, not mimetic.
As such, you end up with a menu that is thoughtful and well executed, but ultimately comforting and filling. This is not fragile food, although some components are handled delicately. Yes, there is the obligatory kale salad, but it is shredded and showered with shaved clothbound cheddar. There are sticky buns, savory, stuffed with pork, iced with parsnip glaze.
This sensibility also applies to the small but smart dessert list.