Joseph, Oh Joseph.
Where do I start?
We first met in the Summer of 2010. You had just made your debut in the city a year before but our paths had never crossed. How ironic that another man brought me to you on that Summer night? Little did he know that I spent all evening being wooed by you instead, Joseph. And you’ve captured my hunger ever since.
You get the point. I love Joseph Leonard.
Every time I get asked “what’s your favorite restaurant in NYC” (which is a LOT), I always find it hard to answer, but I always mention Joseph Leonard. Why? Because it combines everything I love and I NEVER get tired of it. Which says a lot since I always prioritize discovering new restaurants. I will never say no to a meal at JL.
Joseph Leonard has become a true West Village staple and my #1 neighborhood spot (L’Artusi you’re close though…). It’s located on Waverly place, on a cute corner with Grove street and has the quintessential West Village vibe, with its exposed bricks, tiny but ridiculously cozy space and its relaxed atmosphere. The rustic decor makes the setting super welcoming and homey. I wish I could snatch all of their vintage kitchen accessories and antiques for my home. It’s a casual venue but with the sophisticated West Village touch. Some will recognize the romantic spirit of Stulman’s old restaurant The Little Owl. For those of you wondering, the name comes from owner (and my restaurateur Idol) Gabriel Stulman’s grandfathers (I heart you Gabe!) ♥. The framed portraits you’ll see hung on the walls are those of all the restaurant investors’ grandfathers.
The room is probably no more than 700 square feet and holds about 7-8 tables max, along with bar seating that occupies most of the area, but they somehow manage to make the most clever usage of space. Forget large groups though, parties of 2 are ideal, parties of 4 at the most! People, this is the PERFECT date spot.
The best seats are the stools at the back left corner of the restaurant overlooking the kitchen.
Not only are these bar seats super intimate and you get front row seating to the kitchen action, but if you’re lucky (and, um, charming) you might even get complimentary dishes thrown at you!
The restaurant offers all-day gathering, seven days a week,serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends. They take no reservations, but you have the option to put your name down and having them call you when a table is ready, or just have drinks by the bar (not recommended for claustrophobics!). A decent wait is almost always guaranteed. But oh so worth it.
Service is consistently top-notch with the coolest and friendliest waitstaff. Seriously, you can’t get any cooler.
I’d describe the cuisine as New American with both a French and Southern touch. Everything is prepared in a simple but most delicious way. Always ask for the daily specials, they’re awesome (I remember having the best whole Salmon-for-two – drool). I could tell you what to order but honestly, the list would be too long… and they change their menu seasonally. You will, however, always find some signature dishes like the Crispy braised pork hock – $25 (that I love but I must admit can be a hit or miss depending on the cooking) or the Shirasha Brussel Sprouts – $8 and of course their iconic Salted Caramel Pudding – $6 for dessert.
On evenings the restaurant will most likely always be packed but with a great chill vibe. You’ll often hear hip hop or R&B music in the background, like in most of Stulman’s establishments. Lunch is much more neighborly and quiet.
And let us not forget that Joseph Leonard serves a killer brunch, with a killer menu and a KILLER Bloody Mary (get the Bloody Caesar –$16 )!
Aaaand because they just don’t know where to stop with their awesomeness, they even serve a small late night menu from midnight to 2am. Can I move in with you Joseph?
I love every single one of Stulman’s Happy Cooking Hospitality (ex “Little Wisco”) family of restaurants, which also includes Jeffrey’s Grocery, Fedora, Perla, Montmartre and Bar Sardine, but JL is definitely my #1.
Gabriel Stulman describes his restaurants like environments that feel like coming home. That’s exactly how this feels to me. (Did I mention I heart you Gabe?) <3.