It is easy to miss The Smile among the glitzy and colorful storefronts in NoHo. Walking down a short flight of wrought-iron steps transports food aficionados into the dining room of a rustic vineyard. Located at 26 Bond St., between the Bowery and Lafayette, The Smile serves up an interesting tasting experience in a cozy atmosphere—albeit for a high price.
For those on a student budget, the most affordable items on the menu are the starters and sides, which range from the unusual—minted sugar snap peas and marinated goat cheese—to the more conventional, like fava bean crostini and Moroccan lamb meatballs.
After scanning the menu to see that most of the main dishes were outside our budget, we ordered the trio of dips and a lettuce and radish salad. The dips ($12) were an eclectic group: sweet and tangy roasted carrot-ginger (my personal favorite), creamy but bland yellow split pea, and crunchy and tasty almond. Served with a basket of toasted mini baguettes, they proved to be surprisingly filling. The distinctly flavored dips, which are paired perfectly with the hard, crunchy baguettes, make good conversation food—they take a while to get through and easily serve two.
The Bibb lettuce and shaved radish (read: six thin slices) salad ($10) came with a diluted red wine vinaigrette and some sliced avocado. It was disappointingly bland. Perhaps the mixed greens and plum salad or the nectarines, tomato, and mozzarella salad would have been a better selection.
The Smile’s brick walls, dark wooden floors and dim lighting create a rustic-chic ambience to complement the food. The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere with some vaguely hipster vibes: Its servers were dressed in flannels and skinny jeans. The Smile seems to attract the younger, working/artsy crowd, and would be a good choice for a date—what better conversation-starter than getting lost trying to find the place?
The Smile recently opened a takeout version of their restaurant, called The Smile to Go, located at 22 Howard St. The fact that the takeout shop was almost out of food at 6 p.m. speaks to the popularity of the place.
The Smile is a good pick for brunch over the weekend after a walk or bike ride through SoHo and Little Italy. It’s a nice spot to escape the Morningside Heights bubble, explore the neighborhood, and munch on some tasty appetizers before heading to Little Italy for a hearty (and less costly) pizza.