Alvin and Friends (or, Why Every Town Should Have a Restaurant Like This)
Imagine a cold night in April night when it’s raining that kind of mess that falls somewhere between cold water and a slushy sort of ice. When this precipitation hits your head, it feels as though someone is pelting you with semifreddo, which goes splat, splat, splat as it lands—heavy, cold, and soaking.
Then imagine a small, turn-of-the-century storefront emanating a warm, golden glow, where, inside, you can see a large group of diners enjoying themselves at three pushed-together tables. As you rush through the cold, rain-slicked streets, dodging gobs of nasty semifreddo, there is nowhere more that you want to be than at that table tonight, warmed by family and friends and eating delicious food.
This is exactly how I felt last week when I dropped by Alvin & Friends for a midweek meal. The joint was packed with happy groups, many from the Trump and Avalon Towers (for whom this is practically their dining room). Still, though crowded, we noticed that the helpful staff made room for a mother just dropping in for tea and dessert with her young son, and it’s welcomes like this that earn a restaurant lifelong friends. On taupe and sage green walls, the lushly hued paintings of owner Alvin Clayton suggested a tropicality that could not be more welcome on that night, while Clayton, a very handsome man (and former model in the pages of Vogue, Elle, and Esquire), favors lucky patrons with a generous smile that automatically triggers a smile in response. Clayton is a serious painter whose work hangs in the collections of Robert De Niro and Denzel Washington.
Chef Raymond Jackson’s menu pulls from the confluence of African American, Caribbean, and Southern cuisines, a stream that feels as warm and familiar as any American menu. We started with glasses of a rum punch that balanced sweet fruit with darkly spicy rum, and followed with crisp fried oysters whose buttermilk-herb dressing yielded bursting, briny shellfish. The oysters were paired with a sophisticated red tomato chow-chow that offered a palate-refreshing, pickle-y acid to counterpoint the oysters’ deep-fried crust. Meanwhile, our lush bisque arrived capped with fat, orange-fleshed mussels, while its velvet creaminess was alleviated with a refreshing crunch of cilantro.
|Some of Alvin & Friends’ most delicious flavors appear in side dishes, like the lively black-eyed pea salad that accompanied a main of grilled lamb. Its acidic and crunchy red onions and red peppers balanced the creamy, starchy pulse, and offered a bit of sparkle to an otherwise luxurious plate of creamy grits and lamb. But the real killer of the meal was Jackson’s lightly and flavorfully crusted fried chicken—it was a lesson in celebrating the flavor of chicken rather than the flavor of the Frialator. The breast and thigh were plated around a bowl of smoked turkey-strewn collards, which didn’t apologize for the delicious but challenging vegetable with overcooking or over-sugaring. We’re huge fans.||
We ended the meal sharing forkfuls of smartly portioned red velvet cake dipped through a fluffy quenelle of delicately sweetened whipped cream. We were happy, warm, and comfortable—and quietly congratulating ourselves that we live in New Rochelle.
Three Restaurant Week Extensions!
|These local restaurants are continuing Restaurant Week style discounts for the near future, offering a whole lot of value for only a few bucks more than those killer RW deals. That means that, if you couldn’t face the crowds during Restaurant Week, now is your time to visit and save a few bucks.|
Bistro Rollin is offering Restaurant Week Plus $2, which features a wide, three-course menu of BR’s standards like pâté, hanger steak, and roasted chicken “Grand Mere.” It sounds like a perfect pit stop before a flick at the newly revived Playhouse.
Chic Fig & Olive in Scarsdale is offering a $35 prix-fixe dinner available from Sunday through Thursday night. Plus, this week, diners will make out with complimentary glasses of Rimauresq rosé.
The Cookery’s lunch deal can’t be beat with a stick. It offers three courses of Chef David DiBari’s sophisticated Italian fare, all for only 21 bucks.
Fried Chicken, Greens, and Mac and Cheese at Alvin & Friends
Fried chicken is enjoying its moment of trendiness, with Pies ‘n’ Thighs and the reservation-only fried chicken dinner at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar – but you didn’t have to tell me that fried chicken was fabulous. I spent my childhood standing on a chair in front of a black skillet filled with bubbling oil on the stove. Admittedly, this raises valid questions about my under-protective, over-permissive parents, but it does give me tons of experience in the challenges of frying chicken. In my entire lifetime of cooking, I could never achieve the perfect balance of fat, juicy slabs of chicken meat, and crisp, flavorful crust that Chef Raymond Jackson achieves here. We also love this dish’s partnering smoky collards, which celebrate the integrity of the slightly bitter, slightly tough vegetable with pork-mimicking shreds of smoked turkey.