If you’ve read my post on Tipsy Parson below, you’ll already know how I discovered The Redhead and what made me want to try their food. But, just to recap: The Redhead was mentioned in an article titled “The South Invades NYC” in the fabulous and bizarrely named magazine Garden & Gun, which described it as one of the best restaurants in the city representing the southern inspired cuisine that is currently so trendy. Its chef is a former resident of New Orleans, my hometown, which only further piqued my interest in the restaurant. After looking at its menu online, I knew I had to try it out. Items such as bacon peanut brittles, house made soft pretzels with Kentucky beer cheese, crawfish mac & cheese, and buttermilk fried chicken sounded amazing. I dreamt about those pretzels with beer cheese for weeks before I finally went for dinner…
My friend and I decided to hit up The Redhead on a Friday night. We went around 8 and crossed our fingers that we’d be able to get a table, since they only accept reservations for parties of 5 or more. When we arrived, I was a little bit turned off by the decor. The restaurant was very small, dimly lit, and outfitted in dark brown and deep red shades (including a lot of horrendous crushed velvet). Now, dim lighting and deep jewel tones may sound like the makings of a romantic, intimate restaurant, but here, it came across more like a stereotypical British pub. There were red velvet floor-to-ceiling drapes on the large front windows, but they had been left open, allowing light from outside to disturb the otherwise shadowy interior.
We were seated near the front door at a high top cocktail table – not ideal, but the hostess flat-out told us that she had “no idea” when another table would become available. Now, this place wasn’t packed or lively – there just aren’t that many tables. I didn’t appreciate her flippant attitude, but I brushed it off.
The waiter brought by a cocktail menu and, though many sounded interesting (like the Revival and the Redhead Fizz), we went with wine and beer. After our drinks arrived, we placed our order. I selected the pretzels with beer cheese (of course), the Cuban style grilled corn, and the crawfish mac & cheese. My friend ordered a salad that was heavy on broccoli and the Redhead BLT. The waiter was immediately confused as to how to bring out our food, as all of mine were technically starters or sides, but he rushed off without resolving his confusion. I hoped, however, that it would become clear to him after he mulled it over – bring my pretzels and my friend’s salad together, and then bring my corn and mac & cheese along with my friend’s BLT. Instead, this waiter delivered everything all at once – really un-ideal.
We surveyed the massive amount of food on our small table and then began furiously eating, since we feared letting our food go cold. I immediately dug into my pretzels – and I was incredibly let down. The pretzels themselves are miniature versions of what you’d find at Auntie Anne’s in the mall, except with far less flavor. They were also hard (i.e. stale) and room temperature – clearly not freshly baked. The amazing sounding beer cheese was the biggest disappointment of all though. It was pasty, cold, and had only a slightly cheesy flavor, as the beer taste completely overwhelmed it. If Ke$ha had sung about brushing her teeth with a beer instead of a bottle of jack, this “dip” could have been what she was using. It was so thick that my pretzel kept breaking apart into little pieces as I attempted to swipe it through the cheese. I was expected a hot cheese dip – sort of akin to a fondue – which would have been lovely. In the end, I only ate one of the two pretzels and very little of the dip.
Next, I started working on the corn. This was good, but not great. I love Mexican and Cuban inspired corn, especially the “street corn” served at Dos Caminos, and though I enjoyed this, it didn’t have enough salt, spice, or cheese. Nonetheless, it was good enough to finish.
Finally, I ate my crawfish mac & cheese. This dish was the highlight of my meal. The crawfish was perfectly cooked – not chewy but also not mealy. The cheese sauce was well seasoned and cheesy without tasting like Easy Mac. However, it would have been better if the sauce was thicker. The way it’s prepared now, it’s very thin and slides right off the noodles, only to pool at the bottom of the bowl. I ended up dipping my pretzels in the remaining sauce and partially salvaging that otherwise terrible appetizer.
Though I didn’t taste my friend’s meal (which ended up being a blessing in disguise, as you will read below), she didn’t have anything especially bad or especially great to say about it.
At the end of the meal, we considered ordering dessert – but since they give each diner a free, full-sized chocolate chip oatmeal cookie with their check, we decided to pass. When we informed the waiter of this decision, he was noticeably displeased, and when he brought the check, he literally threw the cookies down on the table. The cookie was pretty good though…
Overall, my experience at The Redhead was decent. I probably won’t go back though – nor will I recommend it, as A) I don’t want to give southern cooking a bad name and B) my dining companion became violently ill about an hour after the meal, and her food poisoning continued well into the next day.