Don’t go Google-mapping Mary Lane as some obscure street in Manhattan you’ve never heard of. Power-team Mike Price (The Clam, Market Table) and Joey Campanaro (The Little Owl) of Blackfoot Hospitality recently opened up The Mary Lane in the West Village, which is rife with non-numerical streets, but The Mary Lane is named after an heirloom varietal of fig, not some quaint off-the-beaten path path.
Located at 99 Bank Street, this address has historically incurred a high turnover rate, with even such reputable chefs as Harold Dieterle and Harold Moore, who were unable to make a go of it here. This should not be the case with The Mary Lane, however, as Blackfoot Hospitality has an almost unblemished success rate, and their concept for and execution of this new venture are completely en pointe both with the neighborhood, what is trending now in the current dining scene, and pretty much every element of what constitutes The Mary Lane. They opened strong to about seventy covers their very first night just over a week ago, and on a recent balmy Thursday night they were enjoying a full house, outdoor dining shed at capacity as well.
The team had been looking for a place in which to expand their empire since fall of 2019, and arrived upon the 99 Bank Street address particularly since they “like corners in the West Village,” notes Price. Then the pandemic hit, and their progress slowed significantly, but they used the time to finesse and hone their vision. For the name, they had originally they tossed around iterations of fig varietals, in different languages, etc., but arrived upon the succulent eponymous species of fig and knew they’d found a winner. Both feminine and naturalistic, they determined the power of the fig to be a perfect balance for the two men at the helm. And while the restaurant is in no way fig-themed, they expect to utilize the luscious fruit for inspiration, at least seasonally. Right now, chef de cuisine Andrew Sutin has imagined pancetta-wrapped figs saltimbocca, kind of a devils-on-horseback riff, and a fig tart for dessert, both of which would be tough to argue with in any season.
As for the rest of the menu, Price and Sutin have conceived of a vegetable-forward, seasonal American menu, perhaps somewhat cleaner and lighter than the offerings at the other Blackfoot Hospitality establishments: The Little Owl and Market Table tend somewhat heartier, and The Clam, which is seafood-centric. Sutin himself, formerly of such lauded eateries as Bobo and Pearl Oyster Bar, adheres to a gluten-free regime, his own dietary limitations inform a handful of gluten-free options, as well as vegan and vegetarian offerings.
But omnivores too will not be disappointed. Price said the he had developed a strong, long-standing relationship with Ottomanelli Butchers (also nearby on Bleecker Street) in his other ventures, appreciating and reciprocating their loyalty and commitment as suppliers, especially throughout the pandemic. He will enthusiastically continue relying on their expertise and pride of product as their meat purveyors. That said, even the meatiest of entrees, like a rosemary braised pork loin, is balanced with a luscious house-made sauerkraut featuring market-fresh caraflex cabbage, and it might be the cauliflower and braised baby fennel with roasted Mutsu apples alongside a pristine filet of Hudson Valley steelhead trout that make it so good.
Not to be outshone are their vegetable contributions. Befittingly, Chefs Campanaro and Price met making salads fifteen years ago, and The Mary Lane presents a beautiful opportunity to highlight seasonal produce favorites from local farms like Eckerton Hill and Norwich Farms. For the fall, creative renditions of Brussels sprouts, end-of-the-season fairy tale eggplant and lots of mushrooms feature prominently.
Their creativity, and loyalty, is likewise funneled into the design of the restaurant. They utilized Alta Indelman, an industry icon who created the unique interior of The Clam and its gorgeous vaulted ceiling of glittering seashells. Colorful artwork adorns the deep blue walls, including a vibrant painting by Steven Fragale mounted just past the long cherry wood bar, playfully lit by orb-shaped lamps suspended from the ceiling. The painting has augmented reality features that provide 3-D perspectives when used in conjunction with your smartphone, adding to the intrigue.
Which also illustrates that the team, despite its traditional values, is not not forward-thinking. Despite all the struggles and delays of figuring out how to open a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic, especially while adapting to vacillating regulations to keep the other three open, they are already toying with another venture: a taco concept that they have in the works. So keep an eye out for those prized corner spaces in the Village: Mike and Joey have their eyes peeled for them, too.