In all honesty, our visit to The Library was completely spur of the moment. Once we heard the restaurant overseen by Andrew Carmellini, Luke Ostrom, Paul Salmon, Kevin Abbott, Serge Becker, and Josh Pickard was opening yesterday evening we just had to check it out. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of the food but we did know that the decor was something of an old school cocktail lounge. When we walked into the Public Theater it took us a bit to find the entrance of The Library. At first the security kept directing us to Joe’s Pub but it seemed once they remembered that The Library opened that day we were told to go through a small passageway and up the stairs located on the theater lobby’s left side. The restaurant itself is quite charming with dark woods, leather banquettes and light jazz music. The scene is almost Waverly Inn-esque though we do find Mr. Carter’s restaurant a bit more romantic than The Library. However, just because Serge Becker’s name is on this establishment don’t expect it to be the sceniest of places. We’re going to say that The Library will appeal most to those seeing a show at The Public Theater but we’ll see overtime if our theory holds true.
The menu consists of American comfort food and is organized through including starters, sandwiches, sharable plates and entrees. To start we had the Chicken Fried Chicken Wings, finished with the Short Rib Goulash and ordered the Popcorn Pizza for the table. We were interested in trying the Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice as that was the only international dish on the menu however it seems as the Chicken didn’t make the cut to the final menu and was replaced with the more traditional dish: Lamb Chops. The Chicken Fried Chicken Wings were actually quite good despite the confusing and rather unappealing name. The wings were generously portioned and the batter was thick and crispy and if not a bit salty. However, the Buttermilk Dressing was able to offset some of the salty notes of the chicken wings. The Popcorn Pizza was actually atrocious. Do you remember Pizza flavored Pringles? Now imagine that but on popcorn topped off with shredded Parmesan cheese and you have The Library’s Popcorn Pizza. Though it is inexpensive at $5 for a large bowl, we recommend skipping this despite how “interesting” this may sound. On a more positive note, the Short Rib Goulash was fantastic. Again, the name may not seem appetizing but this southern influenced dish is one of the best short rib dishes we have ever had. The meat was cooked perfectly, we sometimes find short rib to be dry despite it being “slow cooked”, and the sauce was actually very light and we enjoyed the potatoes that came on the side.
The serious downfall of The Library was the service. We understand we went on opening night and that means all of the kinks and quirks may not have been fixed but somethings we saw were just absurd. The only one who seemed to have it together was our server, Tiffany, who had to manage being both the bartender and waitress while also instructing the busboys what to do. While that may seem like the manager’s job, it seemed they were too busy huddling over the hostess stand rather than helping the staff get out entrees and appetizer on time. To be honest, there really is not need for five people to be checking people in when patrons were waiting over 30 minutes for appetizers to come out. The Library should also train their busboys better so we don’t receive appetizers at the same time as our entrees but again, our server tried to rectify this as best she could by ordering another Short Rib that would be served fresh after we finished our first course.
Overall, we would recommend The Library if you are in the area. We wouldn’t exactly go out of our way to come back here but if you happen to find yourself in the East Village and need a decent restaurant with comfort food then by all means check The Library out. The decor is charming, despite the awkward entrance, and the food is good but not good enough to make us come out of our way to come back here. Hopefully if we do find ourselves at The Library again we will see more of the managers helping the kitchen get the food out in a timely fashion rather than doing nothing at the front of the restaurant.
The Library at The Public
425 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10003