Make Sure You Get Your Share of Prune

When you’re in New York City, make sure you get your share of Prune! When I was reviewing this year’s James Beard Award winners and saw Gabrielle Hamilton’s name, I was reminded of my first visit to Prune.
prune
It was 2003 or 4. My boys and I were traveling together. It was their first time in New York City. We had a memorable limo ride from the airport to the Algonquin Hotel. Our driver was a boxer who had sparred with Mike Tyson, swore his father had illegally entered the US in the wheel well of an airplane…twice, and asked the stranger with whom we shared a ride whether she liked threesomes. There were a couple of moments that I questioned my judgement during that ride, but ultimately it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Another highlight came a couple of days later at dinner. I don’t remember exactly where I heard or read about Prune. It seems like some publication had listed it as “the place to be seen” a few months before our trip. Nonetheless, I became aware that a reservation was very hard to get.

The boys and I decided to make ours in person. We walked miles and miles down through Greenwich Village to Battery Park, up and over to Little Italy and Chinatown experiencing the city, then on to 1st Street and 1st Avenue to secure a seat for dinner. Ben was tired. He hit the subway headed for the hotel to take a nap.

James & I continued exploring the city. We arrived at Prune on time. They agreed to seat us at a table by the large front windows where we could enjoy the night air even though Ben wasn’t there yet. The menu at the time included sardines & crackers and overcooked southern vegetables.

While we were perusing it and discussing our options, the landline phone rang (remember those?). Someone behind the bar said, “Cheri?”. I looked back and raised my hand. “You have a phone call.” This was unexpected! I made my way to the bar.

On the phone was Ben. He had gotten off the subway, turned the wrong way, and walked away from the hotel hours earlier. He had finally arrived at our room and realized it was almost time to meet us. There was no way he’d make it. He wanted to know if we could bring him something to eat later. I agreed feeling bad that he was missing dinner with us and amused at his lack of navigational ability. He and his brother are exact opposites in this area.

James & I focused on choosing our food and absorbing the atmosphere. Prune is small. It brings an odd tension between high end and intimate cushioned by a sense of humor and ease. It thinks too much of itself to be a hole-in-the-wall, but not so much that it won’t serve sardines & crackers or fetch a customer to the phone as if all customers get phone calls. It’s the sort of place I love.

Looking at the current menus, the dish descriptions read a bit fancier. I don’t know if the food itself has changed; it has always been simple and upscale (another dichotomy that’s not often done this well). The overcooked southern vegetables I chose from the menu all those years ago may have sounded like the description of typical soul food, but lacked a good 20 minutes of cooking to reach the texture I grew up with in the South.

Over time, I’m sure the restaurant has evolved as all businesses do. Owner and chef Gabrielle Hamilton has written a book, won at least 3 James Beard Awards including Outstanding Chef this year, and is writing a second book all while writing a weekly column for the New York Times magazine and running her restaurant. As her experience has grown, I’m sure it has been reflected in the restaurant. That’s what keeps a small business vibrant.

And vibrant Prune still seems to be. When you visit, expect to sit close to your neighbors. When James and I were dining, the table arrangement was so snug our waiter stepped out the front window onto the sidewalk and then back in to serve the table next to us. There simply wasn’t room to walk between them. That step out the window wasn’t awkward. It seemed perfectly natural and added to the charm of the whole experience.

Some people just draw you in. Some places do the same. These are the people and spaces in which you just may find inspiration. Prune could be one of those places. When you travel to NYC, make sure you get your share of Prune!

prunerestaurant.com

https://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/the-2018-james-beard-award-winners

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/dining/prune-review.html

http://www.algonquinhotel.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=restaurant

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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