The Upper West Side is seeing some action as far as restaurant openings go, with the most recent debut of The Fat Monk last week, at 949 Columbus Ave. The gastropub from Rob McCue of Hell’s Kitchen Season Eight is one of a handful of hot spots to open in the neighborhood in the past few months, with sibling to Jacob’s Pickles, Maison Pickle debuting in February and White Gold Butchers from April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman having opened in November.
“There are more hungry and thirsty people than great places to eat and drink up there,” says Friedman. “It’s a good combo if you're looking to open something.”
McCue opened to address a gap 20 blocks to the north. “This corner of the UWS on 106/107th and Columbus has often been ignored,” he says of the section below Harlem and Columbia University. He also thinks the neighborhood is craving more ambitious restaurants — especially moving toward Morningside Heights.
On the menu, look for winter crudite, as well as Scotch eggs with wild boar among starters. For mains, find classics like fish and chips, burgers, and lamb shepherd’s pie, bone in — protruding from the pie. “The depth of flavors layered by cooking it this way is amazing,” he says. For super-meat eaters, there’s pork knuckle, “or as we tenderly call it, the ‘Schweinshaxe,’ that comes with spätzle and accoutrements of the cabbage variety.” And yes, there will be brunch.
Friedman anticipates restaurant openings at a faster clip in this neighborhood, though they’re catering to differences in customers compared to downtown restaurants. “So many people we meet have lived there for a very long time,” he said, citing families with kids and those with traditional office hours. “Weekends are different from weekdays.” And unlike Spotted Pig, “Upper West Siders won’t wait two hours for a table,” he said. “They’ll wait an hour.”
“I like to think there are lots of people who enjoy eating the way we do,” says McCue, citing dishes from his new menu. “It was the right time, for many reasons, The Fat Monk needed to open here.”
What’s next for the neighborhood? “There aren't many great bars for people to hop around yet,” says Friedman. “There will be.”
Behold, The Fat Monk:
- The Fat Monk interior
- The short list of house cocktails with names like “Say a Dirty Word,” cost $13 each.
- Most of the eight beers on draught are from New York, Pennsylvania, and New England.
- Deviled eggs are served with a chicken-fried oyster.
- Wild boar bolognese with duck egg, porcini mushroom, and tomato is served in starter and entree sizes ($12 and $18).
- Chef Rob McCue opened The Fat Monk uptown last week.