The area around Houseman can do things to you. There's something about the way the light comes through from the river and hits the buildings, and there's something about the quietness and the lack of people. There's something about the beautifully designed stores with names you've never heard of but which definitely sell $2000 sweaters. There's something that makes you say, "Well, huh. This is nice. I think?"
Is this restaurant located in Copenhagen? Oslo? Portland, Oregon? Negative. It's located on Greenwich Street, in the area known as Hudson Square or West Soho, or "that area between Tribeca and the West Village." It's an interesting area - not the touristy/pseudo artist loft-y scene of SoHo, not quite the suit crowd of Tribeca, and not quite the "my dog has 12,000 Instagram followers" scene of the West Village. It's somewhere sort of in the middle, and unless you live or work here, it's also probably an area you've spent very little time in.
Why are we telling you all this? Not because we're starting to review neighborhoods. But because it tells you a lot of what you need to know about Houseman. Like its neighborhood, Houseman has all the tenets of being trendy and sceney (seasonal menu, chefs who come from well-known restaurants, understated yet also very nice interior) but it's just removed enough that instead, it feels like a neighborhood spot. By the way, the food is also really good.
In addition to being reflective of the area around it in a broad sense, Houseman is also influenced by the outside environment in a more direct way. Each day, the weather (e.g. hot and rainy) is printed at the top of the menu, and, our server told us, that's taken into account when thinking about the food. We're not sure that rain changes what gets cooked, but we can say that on our visits, the food was just the kind of stuff you'd want to eat on a hot summer day. And we have to imagine the same will be true when it gets cold again. Winter is coming, friends.
The best way to describe Houseman is to say this: it's a restaurant for adults. Not old people! But sane people who want a really good, interesting dinner topped off with incredibly friendly service. Want to try a pickled bluefish dish that could easily come from some tasting menu in Copenhagen, but also a killer, totally unfancy burger that is one of the best you'll have this year? It sounds like we should hang out. It also sounds like you will like Houseman.
You'll walk out saying, "Huh. Well, that was nice."
A small bowl with little pieces of smoked fish, pickled vegetables, and egg, in a light tangy sauce. Great textures and great flavors. We're ready to eat this dish for the next month.
Shrimp, squid, and friends in spicy cilantro and almond sauce. Light, easy, get it to share.
A fantastic burger, come to Houseman to try this if nothing else. With two very thin patties and a potato bun, but also caramelized onions and lots of char taste, it's kind of like Shack Shack meets fancy steakhouse burger. One person at our table called it "beautiful."
There's nothing wrong with a good piece of fish - this one comes with stewed vegetables and is solid all around. On one occasion, they said we could sub out the swordfish for striped bass, which was cool.
They make the goat sausage in house, and it comes sliced up and grilled, almost like a meatball. With feta added in, it's one of the richer things here, but also one of the most interesting.
A bowl of littlenecks, served almost as if they were mussels in a very flavorful broth. Two thumbs up.
For dessert, they serve a pie where the filling is literally just straight up peanuts. You're probably going to want that.