My friend Anthony and I were out taking photos in Chinatown one Thursday night, when we decided to consult good, ol’ Yelp for something good to eat. There were so many four- and five-star options in the Lower East Side that it was hard to choose, but the small plates and small prices of The Stanton Social appealed to us and our wannabe-struggling-artist sensibilities.
Both the dining room downstairs and all of the tables upstairs were full, so we were ushered to the lounge area by the very friendliest Pennsylvania-born server ever to work in New York City. The long, low couches and tiny tables made a fine dining area for such an informal meal, but with only candlelight to work with, I’m afraid my pictures are severely lacking. Try to look past them, because they do the meal no justice.
skillet roast octopus: chorizo, garlic, sherry vinegar ($12)
I wouldn’t have ordered this on my own due to still being a newborn when it comes to eating seafood, and I didn’t walk away from it feeling like it really opened my eyes to octopus or anything, but it certainly wasn’t unenjoyable. The chunks of meat were a little chewier than I would’ve liked, but the contrast of the extra-crunchy bread was nice. Anthony seemed to think this was more excellent than I did, so maybe a real seafood-lover wouldn’t be as picky as I am.
Rhode Island style lobster roll ($9)
I guess I need to amend my admission that I’m not a real seafood-lover, because I am a real lover of lobster, especially lobster rolls. This was your usual chunky, creamy filling, but it had the advantage of a sturdy, pretzel-type bread and pickles. I understand that lobster rolls traditionally come with a pickle spear on the side, but to actually have the pickle in the roll somehow seemed like a great advancement in lobster roll technique. This was a pretty hefty price tag for two bites of sandwich, but it was certainly more delicious than the $12 and $16 rolls I’ve had.
Kobe Philly ($9)
Another great twist on a classic, with truffle and goat cheese fondue topping thin slices of tender Kobe beef. I might have actually liked this better than the lobster because its richness made the one bite I got seem more hearty and filling.
potato and goat cheese pierogies ($9)
We didn’t order these, but I’m glad our server thought we did, because their menu description belied their deliciousness. I think of pierogies as homey but a little bland, but with those caramelized onions, chives, and truffle creme fraiche, they were like eating a baked potato with the works. The truffle in the creme fraiche was so perfectly warming on a rainy, chilly night, but the flavor somehow managed not to overpower the all-important chives.
duck confit pizzetta ($14)
This mini pizza had a great part-crunchy, part-chewy crust loaded up with tender, flavorful duck, sweet figs, and funky blue cheese. It tasted very composed, with plenty of every ingredient and just the right amount of each.
French onion soup dumplings ($12)
I want to describe these as my new reason for living but don’t want you to think me an overexaggerator. Never was an escargot plate used better than to house these six soup dumplings. If you’ve ever had the classic Chinese soup dumplings filled with pork or shrimp, these will seem familiar to you for the one second it takes for the skin to pop in your mouth and the French onion soup to spill out. The layer of melted cheese and the speared crouton on top of each were true to form, but the dumplings were so good on their own I would’ve been entirely happy even without them. Next time, I plan to eat five orders of these myself and still follow it up with one of Stanton Social’s enticing desserts.
The Stanton Social isn’t exactly cheap–two of us spent $120 with one drink apiece for a few bites of a few dishes–but being delighted by the flavor combinations over and over again made it seem worthwhile. I’m still thinking about the gush of those soup dumplings, that rich truffle cream, and the tang of blue cheese on fig weeks later. Even while relegated to the lounge, we got a good taste of our surroundings–candlelight, white furniture and dark woods, and a nightclubby vibe with beautiful people to match. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t really have to put out good food to draw a crowd, and yet everything tasted like some nerd back in the kitchen was hard at work, trying to impress the pretty people.
The Stanton Social
99 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002 (map)