photo credit: RACHEL LERRO
There’s a specific kind of store you shop at for all of your basics. It’s a place where you can get a white t-shirt, a pair of inoffensive jeans, and a black shift dress that can transition perfectly from work to date night. While they may not have the most exciting collection of clothes, you always find something you like.
There are restaurants that serve a similar purpose - places where you can get a reservation last minute, show up with pretty much any combination of people, and have a reliably great meal that won’t blow you away. Talula’s Garden in Washington Square West is that kind of restaurant - it serves delicious food and has a great patio, but it’s nothing revolutionary. And yet we find ourselves there often.
If you’re coming to a place called Talula’s Garden, you’re going to want to sit outside. They have a large, split-level brick patio covered in vines and string lights, and it’s the biggest reason that Talula’s is always more crowded in the summer. On any night over 65 degrees, it’s tough to get a table out here - but if you call ahead, you can make it happen.
photo credit: Rachel Lerro
Inside, the restaurant has high ceilings, low lighting, and beige, sponge-painted walls like the ones in pretty much every house that was remodeled in the early 2000s. There are quotes written on the walls that were probably charming at some point, and the use of the word “little” appears enough times on the menu to make anyone feel slightly uncomfortable. You might find the same restaurant in a mall, except the food at Talula’s is way better than a place you’d go to after spending all day dodging large groups of preteens.
The menu has a little bit of everything - soups, salads, and pastas, as well as mains like roasted duck breast and Scottish salmon - which makes it look like it was written by AI auto-populating the category “New American food.” Regardless, everything here is well-executed - like the very basic-sounding spatchcock chicken with a black-pepper mustard glaze that’s so tasty you’ll want the leftovers even if there are just two spoonfuls left.
We’ve come to Talula’s Garden for dinner when the in-laws are in town, we’ve come here for a bacon ramp burger at brunch, and we’ve even come after hitting a few bars just to end our night with one of their PB&J sundaes. It’s never the most exciting option, but it is a great place to know about. Just like that white button-down in your closet, you never know when you’re going to need it, but you’re always glad to have it.
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Summer Tomato Soup
This isn’t always on the menu, but when it is, you should get it. It’s thick without being overly heavy, and it comes over a heap of grains and feta.
Poached Gulf Shrimp Salad
Of all the salads on the menu, this one is kind of disappointing. Not because it tastes bad or anything - but because it only comes with two shrimp, which is not ideal considering it costs $17.
The ricotta ravioli is sweet - maybe a little too sweet - with a fig and pinot noir butter sauce. But that aside, the salty butter sauce and the date salata on top go together perfectly.
Braised Lamb Pappardelle
We’re big fans of the pappardelle. It might be the best thing on the entire menu - with tender lamb shoulder and a pecorino and green garlic sauce. Get it to share, or just get it for yourself and then smirk at everyone at your table who has order envy.
Of the seafood entree options, this is the highlight. It comes with couscous and clams, and a fennel-tomato sauce that’s just a little bit spicy. Get it.
Everything on this plate is great: the buttermilk grits, the sweet corn and tomato salsa, and the meat itself, which is covered in hot pork drippings.
Hot Little Sugar Donuts
Regardless of the name, which sounds like it’s straight out of a Seventeen Magazine quiz, these are very good. And they come with a whipped meringue that tastes like marshmallow fluff.
PB & J Crunch Sundae
We would (and have) come here just for this sundae. It’s got raspberry sorbet, peanut butter ice cream, and is sitting on top crunchy rice crispies. It’s essentially like reliving your childhood, but without your mom writing embarrassing messages on the outside of your lunch bag.