455 Hudson St, 212-255-3838
Cash only, reservations not accepted
Price Range: Lunch
It takes a singular talent to give a very hungry woman the news she’ll have to wait an hour for a table, and do it without flinching. The host at Alexandra has such a talent. Given that the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations nor is there room at this snug West Village eatery to sit at the bar, my date and I were treated to the cheery routine the host has no doubt rehearsed with finesse many times before: there was a bar two doors down or, if we felt daring, a lesbian bar across the street, and he would be more than happy to call when a table became available. One hour, two beers, and several video games later, amid glances from old men playing pool who looked like they’d seen their share of well-dressed patrons killing time, our lovely host made good on his word.
Alexandra’s cozy interior evokes images of old New York, with its black-and-white framed photographs, and intimate seating. In a burst of sentimentality, I told my dining partner that I secretly hoped there was some jazz musician-turned-restaurateur involved who’d named his first investment after his great lost love. The small, honestly priced menu offers a best of the basics in fish, chicken, and steak, though I can’t help wondering why "New American" cuisine so often looks French. Thankfully, the Mussels appetizer ($10) was worth the extra game of Pac-Man next door, and its sumptuous coconut red curry broth made me glad I’d saved some warm bread for dipping. Alas, my pal’s crispy Paprika Shrimp ($12), while well-seasoned, was a chore to extract from its casing and not very fresh once it was liberated. The entrees proved more dependable. The Roast Chicken ($17) was a peppery delight escorted by mushrooms and delicious red potatoes straight from the oven. The Salmon ($18), like the shrimp, didn’t seem entirely sushi-grade, but made up for it with a bed of creamy lemon-flavored polenta and crunchy asparagus, punctuated with warmed cherry tomatoes. Ordering a side seemed like a must and the Creamed Spinach ($5) was a comforting dish I’d previously only dreamed my grandmother could make.
Alexandra is not the place to look for food miracles as they rely on traditional combinations of substance and seasoning, but what they manage is something that, surprisingly, few places offering a semi-casual evening downtown accomplish — a restaurant with good food in a friendly space that encourages soft discourse. Oh, and a host that treats you like a human being with every right to get a table and eat? That’s a real gem.$17 — $24