In late December, I visited Wassail for one of my final meals of 2015. Located on the Lower East Side, Wassail is a cider bar that serves innovative dishes that just happen to be vegetarian. They do use eggs and dairy, but their vegetable forward creations might give Dirt Candy a run for its money. In 2015, there’s been a shift in the NYC food scene and a new wave of vegetable focused restaurants popping up all over. Progress!
Wassail is currently the only dedicated cider bar in NYC. There are about a dozen rotating ciders available on draft, and there are plenty more available by the bottle. They also mix up some tasty cider cocktails. I got the Wassail cocktail ($12), because how can you not get the namesake cocktail at a place like this. Mulled cider, madeira, and pear brandy. Warming and tasty. Remind me to try a flight next time.
Before I get into how fabulous the food is, I have to mention that the service was off. When I arrived at the restaurant, I waited a long time before the host appeared to ask if I had a reservation. When Ling and I browsed the menu, we asked our waitress what the most popular dishes were, and she responded with “Everything.” When we inquired about seasonal recommendations, she reiterated “Everything” and looked irritated. Joyful.
We shared an order of the jalapeño fritters ($5) off the happy hour menu while perusing the rest of the menu. These were more like gnocchi than fritters. For the most part, they’re light on the heat until you stumble across a jalapeño jackpot.
The sunchokes dish ($15) was a cheesy treat. Crispy sunchokes, charred brussels sprouts, melty leeks… and then there’s what is basically a gruyere cheese fondue spiked with cider. Order this, and you’ll want to lick the bowl clean.
There’s a lot going on in the cucumber & melon salad ($14), but it definitely works. Cured cucumbers, dainty melon balls, macadamia milk, sorrel, borage oil, and macadamia shavings. The description on the menu didn’t come across as that exciting, but when it placed in front of us, I was delighted.