A cozy little restaurant that holds 28 diners at a time, including four at the bar, The Little Owl is so popular that on weekends, crowds willingly wait hours for one of the coveted spots. Opentable.com does offer limited reservation services, but unless you're looking for a 5:00 dinner before the theater or a show at the nearby Film Forum, you may do better to call and see what you can work out with the reservationist at 212 741-4695. They do set aside tables for two for walk ins at each service and there are no reservations for Saturday and Sunday brunch. We accepted one of the 5:00 reservations the other night and as first to arrive, had our pick of the tables. We chose one in the corner with a view to the street as well as the dining room. By 6:00, the room was filled with what appeared to be lots of locals and repeat diners.
The wine list is small and reasonably priced with some really good finds. Our bottle of Tempranillo slipped down before we knew it. The couple next to us started with the meatball sliders-so did many others, they're a favorite-three gorgeous veal, pork and beef meatballs on slender house made buns. We ordered the pear and foie gras salad with endive and a light cranberry dressing, a rich, earthy starter and crisp French fries with aioli to start.
Although known for their pork chop and burgers, we both ordered fish. The halibut with chive mashed potatoes was cooked perfectly and deeply flavored. The cod with English pea, roasted corn and pesto salad had Judy levitating-it was the best dish she had in the week in New York. We were too stuffed to sample their desserts, but the standouts are the brownie and the beignets. Be smarter than we were and save a little space.
The excellent food and the neighborhoody feel of The Little Owl have made this place a wildly popular dining spot almost since opening five years ago. We're already planning our next visit, and we will go at 5:00. It's quiet early in the evening and we had fun watching the dining room fill up.