It’s All American

Illustration by JoCanDraw Studio

If you’re going to open an American restaurant, you’d do well to serve American food. But what exactly is American food? Great minds have struggled with that question ever since the first settlers tucked into a pumpkin pie. Is it burgers, fried chicken, and barbecue? Can it be matzo-ball soup and chicken chow mein? Well, it can be all those things and much more, and that’s the point. We may not have a unifying equivalent of those intrepid forest-foraging Scandinavians or the loopy Spanish avant-garde, much to the chagrin of some of our top chefs. But it’s this very lack of cohesive identity that most excites Andrew Carmellini, who this week opens his American joint, the Dutch, with partners Luke Ostrom and Josh Pickard, in Soho. In earlier eras, the Dutch might have been called eclectic or multiethnic. In 2011 New York, Carmellini considers it strictly American—from the omnivorous perspective, that is, of a Polish-Italian-American cook from Cleveland who has worked in Europe and at Le Cirque, Café Boulud, and A Voce and been exposed by Manhattan residency and world travel to nearly every cuisine there is. “To be honest,” he says, “we wanted to do American because it gives us the freedom to cook whatever we want.” And, he’s quick to clarify, this isn’t the fine-dining province of eighties-era New American cuisine. “It’s not so much inspired by what the great chefs cook anymore but what the grandmothers cook.” That mind-set pervades the Dutch’s menu, which includes everything from the fried chicken and biscuits Carmellini previewed at Locanda Verde to “barrio tripe” with beer and avocado, jerk-seasoned spicy goat pie, and the chef’s first professional burger, a seven-ounce Pat LaFrieda patty with secret sauce on an Orwasher’s bun. Despite the diversity, though, the Dutch rests on such recognizably American bulwarks as chophouse-style meats, an oyster bar, and a Southern Pride smoker, which is put to use on eggs, lamb links, pork belly, and even hay. Pie, of course, is a given—two types a day. It’s the only dessert on the late-night menu, which the Dutch partners are launching first, in the front section of the restaurant. This corner space, outfitted by the in-demand design firm Roman and Williams with cream-painted brick, wood banquettes, and a central structure that connects the oyster bar to the wet bar, will open for breakfast and lunch as well, while the clubbier back room is dinner-only. The American theme is further articulated through the accumulation of New York–­centric art and photos, and the denim aprons worn by the staff. More than the food or décor, in fact, it’s the employees who might best represent the philosophy behind the Dutch. At a recent staff meeting, Carmellini quizzed the crew on what it means to be an American restaurant. “I asked everyone where they were from. And then I said, ‘You just answered my question.’ ” For a better sense of what Carmellini considers American food with New York soul, plus a peek at the interior, take a look at our slideshow.

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The Dutch
131 Sullivan St., at Prince St.; 212-677-6200

A little snacky, a little seasonal, and a lot of glorified grandma.Little Oyster Sandwiches The Dutch serves New York’s quintessential bivalve on the half-shell, in massive shellfish platters, and fried and tucked into house-baked buns with pickled-okra sauce. Photo: Danny Kim

Egg Okonomiyaki The Japanese savory pancake, Dutchified with house-smoked pork belly and bonito flakes shaved to order. Photo: Danny Kim

Apple-Rhubarb-Rose Pie As American as apple pie, aromatized with Lebanese rosewater. Photo: Danny Kim

Stuffed Trout Is there anything more American than wrapping something in bacon? Well, there’s stuffing with corn bread and then wrapping with bacon, as Carmellini does to this trout. Photo: Danny Kim

Devil’s-Food Cake It’s finished with black-pepper boiled icing and served with White Russian ice cream. Photo: Danny Kim

Corn Bread Pastry chef Kierin Baldwin bakes almost everything in-house, including corn bread served in lieu of a bread basket. Photo: Danny Kim

Dressed Crab, Bloody Mary, Green Goddess A crab dish inspired by a classic cocktail and a classic dressing, both invented in the twenties. Photo: Danny Kim

Housemade Hot Sauce (Left) Comes in handy for barrio tripe. Housemade Steak Sauce Dry-aged bone-in New York strip and beef-rib chop for two, served separately. Photo: Danny Kim

Dutch Baby, Lemon Marmalade The dish that gives fallen soufflés a good name. Photo: Danny Kim

Barroom Oak tables, custom light fixtures, and vintage Friso Kramer chairs. Photo: Danny Kim

Barroom Elevated corner table. Photo: Danny Kim

Bar by Night (Open to 2 a.m.) Counter space by day, for takeout breakfast pastries and lunch sandwiches. Photo: Danny Kim

The Oyster Room The focal point is this simple wood bar, with swivel stools bolted into the floor. Photo: Melissa Hom

The passageway from the oyster room to the dining room is equipped with temperature-controlled wine cabinets. Photo: Melissa Hom

Dining Room The clubby back dining room has leather booths, a working fireplace, and schoolhouse chairs. Photo: Melissa Hom

It’s All American