Where the Big Apple meets the Big Easy!
Like many restaurants in the East Village, Exchange Alley is a cute little place where you walk in and the casual, warm glow immediately sets you in a good mood. You can pretend that you’re not in New York City because you’re away from the crazy hustle and bustle of the usual tourist and “I’m so cool, look at me!” traps. In a place like New York City, where it’s so easy to be swallowed up by the craziness, it’s good to have places where you can go and just hideout.
We were able to get a table in the back of the restaurant where it was a little quieter. Be aware that the front of the restaurant is a little louder, both with music and conversation. Overall, the food was interesting and the presentation made me want to eat the food which is always important.
- Fried pickled okra, remoulade
- Jambalaya balls, dirty gravy
- Boneless chicken wings
- Chicken and polenta
- Spunomi: cherry, lemon, and pistachio
When I chose what to order, I purposely chose dishes from both sides of the fence: curiosities as well as good old stand-bys. What’s important to note is that of the things we ordered, there wasn’t anything specific that “wowed” me and said, “I absolutely MUST go back there for that one dish! It was so amazing!” Before I go further though, in full disclosure, I have been to New Orleans twice. Each time I was there, it was for about a week and we dined at the best restaurants in New Orleans (one of the perks of having to entertain high-end business clients).
For the pickled okra, the heaviness of the remoulade felt unnecessary. There was enough pop to the flavor of the okra from the pickling and deep frying that it didn’t need anything else.
The jambalaya balls were tasty and the gravy was definitely dirty, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m just still trying to decide if I liked it with the balls. The resounding question that comes to mind is, “Was it necessary?” And, I’m not sure that it was. My thoughts are that some other version of gravy would have been just as good or possibly better. Oh, and for those of you who are trying to figure out what makes the gravy dirty, it’s the liver that’s infused into the gravy. I’ll have to admit though, it IS fun to say, “I’ll have an order of balls with dirty gravy!” Hehe.
I’ll try to keep the rest of this short. The chicken wings were only interesting because of the vinegar dipping sauce. Otherwise, they were just boneless chicken wings with a beautiful dusting of fresh red pepper. For the halibut, I only had a small taste and should have taken better notes, but I didn’t. So I won’t say more about it other than, it was fine. What can I say? I was having a good time with my friend! 🙂
The fusion of flavors really worked well in the chicken and polenta dish though. The gravy didn’t overpower the dish which is kind of how I felt about the dirty gravy with the balls. The polenta was a fantastic pairing choice vs. the traditional mashed potatoes. So of all the things we ordered, I would definitely recommend this one. What I would say to stay away from for sure, is the spunomi. That was the worst flavor combination and even the chocolate sauce on top couldn’t make it taste better. In fact, I think it made it worse which is a really sad thought to me because you have to work really hard to make chocolate not work in a dessert. Enough said.
One last thought before I go, the cocktails were divine! Kudos to their mixologist! He knows what he is doing. For something tart and mildly sweet, go for the lemongrass mimosa. For something a little less feminine, try the negroni gone wrong. We had others that were very good as well.
You know, overall, this was an enjoyable experience so I wouldn’t say, don’t come to this spot. Exchange Alley is new so I’m sure they’re still working out some things. If you check it out, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts since this is very much of a mixed review. And, in general, I like to hear your thoughts so feel free to leave feedback or questions.