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Tipsy Parson – Reviewed

245_TIPSYparson_jcalais-1.jpg**** — Four Stars
Address: 156 Ninth Ave, at 20th St.
Phone: (212)620-4545
Cuisine: Southern-inspired comfort cuisine
Vibe: Charming brownstone
Occasion: Casual date; Group dinner; Bar dining.
Hours: Dinner, Mon-Thu, 5:30p.m.-11a.m., Fri & Sat, 5:30p.m.-12a.m., Sun, 5:30p.m.-11a.m; Brunch, Sat & Sun, 10a.m.-4p.m.
Don’t Miss Dish: Hush puppies; Catfish; Brussel Sprouts ;Sweet potato pie; Tipsy Parson dessert.
Average Price: Appetizers, $12;  Entrees, $23; Dessert, $8.
Reservations: Recommended

Photo Credit: Jennifer Calais Smith

Capsule: Warm hospitality and wonderful cooking at Tipsy Parson in Chelsea. 

How great would it be if you could go out for dinner in your pajamas?  Unless you’re going to a local diner, eating out requires a certain amount of sacrifice.  You have to jump on the subway, walk in the rain, hail a cab, and  look slightly presentable.  Or, you could just sit on the couch and eat mediocre take-out.  As much as I wanted to stay home a few weeks ago, I had plans to go to Tipsy Parson, a new restaurant located in Chelsea, and it was too late to cancel.   

A piping hot, buttermilk-chive biscuit with honey butter is so much better than staying home.  So is a fluffy bowl of gratineed grits laced with lots of cheese butter
and hush puppies with a old bay aioli that could hold their own against
the versions being served down south.  Every table is welcomed with a homemade herb parkerhouse roll that’s to die for.    The setting is just as wonderful, designed entirely by the owners themselves.  Upfront, there’s a casual seating area with cozy couches and an old trunk that functions as a table.  There’s a long marble bar adorned with flea market knick knacks  — a riding hat, books, and vintage elixir bottles with one that reads “Worm Expeller.”   In the back of the restaurant, there’s an even cozier dining room with French doors that look out onto a backyard, wood floors, brown leather banquettes, and plates hanging along the walls.   

Dinner at Tipsy Parson feels a lot like you’re eating at someone’s house.  And in a way, you are.  Partners Julie Taras Wallach & Tasha Garcia Gibson first debuted on the New York dining scene a few years ago at Little Giant  on the Lower East Side.  I always liked Little Giant for its thoughtful cooking, windowed facade, and especially the grasshopper dessert – a bright green mint mousse with chocolate streusel and whipped cream. 

But Tipsy Parson further affirms that these are two women to watch.  This isn’t just Southern comfort food.  Dinner begins with a doughy chive-specked parkerhouse roll.  There’s a terrific warm spinach & kale salad that’s got everything going for it in the way of texture and flavor — crunchy corn bread croutons, dried cherries, button mushrooms and an acidic shallot-sherry vinaigrette that ties the dish together.   You rarely see catfish on a menu in Manhattan and the one served here is excellent.   Two generous catfish, lightly dusted in celery seed, smoked paprika, coriander, and pepper, are placed above a memorable potato salad.  I don’t remember the last time potato salad was memorable, but this one’s spiced with horseradish and mustard..  My favorite dish on the menu is listed under snacks — the  fig rumaki, which apparently means
figs wrapped in sorghum-glazed bacon and stuffed with water chestnuts.  

Unfortunately, the celeriac salad — a mix of celery leaves, fennel, and slivers of Asian pear and apples — is solely an exercise in texture not flavor.  I’d skip the broiled oysters as well, which are overshadowed by much too peppery bacon.  No matter.  There’s too many other terrific dishes, like a velvety parsnip soup garnished with pickled grapes and parsnip chips and a side of sweet, baby brussel sprouts tossed with pecans.   I’m a pickle plate person and this one is a first-rate assortment of beets okra, baby carrots, peppers, and onions.    

Do stay for dessert as it’s chef Julie Taras Wallach’s forte.   Both the “Tipsy Parson” and the sweet potato pie are two of the best desserts I’ve tasted in a long time.  The restaurant’s namesake dessert is a little like an elegant parfait layered with brandy-soaked almond cake, vanilla custard, cranberries, apricots, and toasted almonds.  But the sweet potato pie is unforgettable and perfect for the type that doesn’t like dessert or opts for the cheese plate.  I’m not sure which is better: the sweet potato & greek yogurt filling, the ginger sable crust, or the tangy dollop of sweet sour cream on top. 

At some restaurants, homey seems like a theme.  At Tipsy Parson, it feels like a genuine sentiment. 

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