The one word I would use to describe Friend of a Farmer, a country restaurant in the middle of Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood, is “oasis.”
This is not a restaurant one would expect in the New York suburbs, let alone in the city itself. The closest thing I can compare it to – although it’s painful to do so – is Cracker Barrel. There’s the creaky, natural wood floors, the rural decor and homey, comfort food.
But unlike that bastion of roadside diversion, Friend of a Farmer has the advantage of being one little place within the controlled chaos that is New York City. As a stand-alone shop, the place is not trafficking in mass food in a faux setting with questionable service. Our server was extremely friendly (although with a punkish vibe that would be unwelcome in Kansas) and the cozy atmosphere seemed stripped wholesale from a real country house.
And the food was mmm-mmm good! I honestly can’t remember the appetizers, but it’s hard to forget the entrees, especially when three of the four of our party ordered the same thing. This was the Fresh Roasted Turkey (cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, fresh cranberry sauce & giblet gravy), a Thanksgiving meal on a plate. Enjoyed by my wife, my friend and his fiance, the food captured the quintessential family feel, with succulent pieces of turkey and accouterments worthy of any hard-cooking mom (or dad).
I, of course, picked the least country item on the menu: Honey Glazed Shrimp (mixed greens, mandarin oranges, pears, maytag blue cheese & grapes with a sesame ginger mandarin dressing). This was because 1. I had a big, heavy lunch and 2. my stomach was bothering me, probably because of 1. The salad was extremely tasty, with the tang of the various fruit playing off the sweetness of the shrimp and creaminess of the cheese. It was certainly well-balanced, but I could have used a few more shrimp and definitely more pear.
For dessert… PIE! I would have been extremely disappointed if a place like this didn’t offer at least one homemade pie. Luckily, the restaurant has a mini-bakery in its kitchen, offering a bunch of warm, carby goodies. Both couples went with the delicious apple crumb pie, a la mode. At first they had run out of vanilla ice cream, but managed to find some tucked away in the back. Between the gooeyness of the pie and the lightness of the ice cream, this was the perfect capper to a country meal.
Since Friend of a Farmer is now a friend of mine, I think I’ll return for breakfast… and brunch… and lunch… and more dinner. Care to join me?