Flavor and Flair

Photographs by Julie Bidwell
Above: Black Pepper-Crusted Tuna with jalapeño-avocado mash, cilantro-mango salsa, unagi sauce, wasabi cream and tobiko

Though we’re spoiled living in Greenwich with access to so much, some people fixate on what’s missing. I wish we had a better fill-in-the-blank type of restaurant, they’ll say. Some crave more ethnic eats or sushi options. For those seeking nightlife and a fun spot with casual-but-creative food, your ship has come in. The Spread has quickly become a fixture on the local scene, taking over the former Barcelona space, and its owners know how to get the party rolling. Tequila tastings on a Monday night? DJ three nights a week? Monthly theme dinners such as flights and bites and game night? Ladies’ night? Guys’ night? Yes, all are on the menu.

Restaurateurs and longtime friends Chris Rasile (who grew up in Greenwich), Chris Hickey, Shawn Longyear, Drey Cortes and Chef Carlos Baez—who could be the Entourage of the restaurant world—set up their first Spread in SoNo five years ago and have had their eye on Greenwich for a long time. They transformed the space near the top of the Avenue, giving it a rustic-industrial feel with exposed ceilings, tables crafted from antique barn doors, light fixtures made of pipes and, most notably, a seventy-foot-long bar that wraps around the room. A living wall of plants greets guests as they walk in, and food is served on mismatched granny-chic china, as eclectic as the cuisine.

After eating at The Spread several times, I found it well-suited for ladies’ nights and get-togethers with friends, but also good for date night if you’re in the mood for people-watching and don’t mind the high noise volume. It pays to reserve ahead; when we called only a few hours before for a Saturday night meal, we were seated by the glass wall connecting to the entry, which feels like being in a fishbowl as people walk in. While this is not a place for quiet conversation, there’s a private dining room for group gatherings away from the crowd as well as seating by the open kitchen to watch the chefs in action.

Grass-fed short ribs with baby spinach, bonito broth, garlic chili oil, shaved shiitake mushrooms • Chef Carlos Baez

The Spread’s SoNo location has been awarded “Best Apps in the State” for good reason. The raved-about veal meatballs earn their acclaim: tender, rich-flavored comfort food in light tomato sauce and fontina cheese served over creamy polenta with a drizzle of basil oil brightening the plate. Brussels sprouts have a crispy edge to them, topped with a smattering of fresh herbs, feta and a trace of honey. A lush butternut squash bisque topped with candied bacon and pepitas has hints of maple flavor. Country pate is a solid rendition of the classic, which you don’t often find these days. Chef Carlos, who once did a chicken molé throwdown against Bobby Flay, whips up specials weekly, so the menu is evolving and focused on ingredients sourced locally. Recently he was out foraging for ramps for spring dishes, and he’s working with Ridgefield’s Horseshoe Farm to grow asparagus for the restaurant. To go along with his fresh starters, the cocktail program is on its A-game too: All juices are pressed in-house daily, even the cranberry.

While you can make a meal of apps alone (also try the Buttercup Salad with avocado and gorgonzola), the menu lends itself to sharing with its breakdown of small, medium and large plates. Among the mains, Brick Chicken is a signature entrée, the skin beautifully glazed with a white wine sauce, meat juicy and served with salad and heartwarming polenta. Asian-style short ribs have bold flavor with plentiful slices of garlic, spinach and shiitake mushrooms in a bonito broth. And I like the pairing of the pan-seared halibut and mussels with roasted cauliflower and poblano crema.

During my first visit here, only a few weeks after the restaurant opened, service was scattered with a few forgotten drinks, missing utensils and delays; however, at recent dinners our servers were pleasant and attentive. With lively music in the background and lots of people out for the evening, the vibe encourages customers to linger. If you’re in the mood to end the meal with a sugar fix instead of a drink, the milk chocolate mousse is pure indulgence, mixed with a peanut butter crunch and chocolate fudge to gild the lily. Also try the donuts with bourbon caramel sauce. Either way, come for the spread—and stay for the scene.

Kale with salted pumpkin seeds, avocado, goat cheese and house dressing;
Burrata with shaved fennel and radishes and grapefruit infused white balsamic on sourdough toast


QUICK BITES

OWNERS’ FAVES
• Drey: Brick Chicken and Ricotta Gnocchi
• Shawn: meatballs, beef tongue, Brussels sprouts and pate
• Chris Rasile: shaved foie gras
• Chris Hickey: crabmeat stuffed avocado topped with unagi sauce, black rice and spicy mayo

MOST-REQUESTED COCKTAILS
The classic Manhattan and two of beverage director Sean Nye’s creations: The Amelia with American vodka, St. Germain, lemon-blackberry cordial and mint; and Pineapple Krush with Fernet-Branca, Drambuie, lime and fresh pineapple

WHAT’S NEXT
The menu changes seasonally and Chef Carlos is always introducing new dishes. This summer watch for his tomato tartare and a scallop crudo with green strawberries.


THE SPREAD
18 West Putnam Avenue,
203-900-1887
thespreadrestaurants.com

HOURS
Monday to Thursday
Dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.
Bar, 4:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Monday to Friday
Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday & Saturday
Dinner, 5 to 11 p.m.
Bar, 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Sunday
Brunch, 11 a.m. to
3:30 p.m., Dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.Bar, 11 to 12:30 a.m.

 

 

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