We all know when the going gets tough the tough make exceptionally good double ristretto espresso, and that when life gives you lemons the only thing to do is make a hearty chili. Well the going recently got tough for The Blind Tiger when, after ten years as one of the few places with any integrity doling out micro brewed beers in the West Village, they were priced out of their lease on Hudson and Tenth to make room for a much needed Charbucks.
Life gave The Tiger lemons when, after choosing a new spot which had formerly had a liquor license a little more than a big avenue block away from their original location, they signed a lease and moved, only to learn that the State Liquor authority, under the influence of local assemblywoman Deborah Glick, apparently sees the relocation of a local small business as an undesirable thing and that, at the moment, they will not be granted a liquor license. So for the time being I can only report on the chili and espresso: while they await their license, The Blind Tiger is open and working at two-thirds capacity, those two thirds being food and coffee service.
A definite part of the charm of the old Tiger was the well worn feel of the room. It had an older world character that could not be well reproduced. Rather than try to force aged charm, this room has been decked out with lumber reclaimed from a farmhouse upstate, giving it a new feel of a place that will take living in well. With warm dark roughhewn wood walls, tables, chairs, benches and a bar, the space seems ready to accommodate whether it is well stitched up with a fire in the fireplace on a blustery winter day or, as it did this weekend, with its windows thrown open on a pleasant autumn afternoon.
Although the block of Bleecker The Tiger has landed on (between 6th and 7th Avenues) is not famed for haute cuisine, it is pretty well known in the food world. On this block are John’s Pizzeria, Murray’s Cheese Shop, Amy’s Breads, O. Ottomanelli’s & Sons Butcher Shop, and Faicco’s Pork Store; within 100 feet of it are Pearl Oyster Bar, Po, Home, One if by Land, and Joe’s Pizza. There are even some ridiculous places like the Caliente Cab Co. for Jersey kids to stop in and whoop it up while in the big city. With an eye to the future and a sense of what isn’t already covered, the folks at the Blind Tiger are making what is best described as contemporary Greenwich Village pub grub: warm sandwiches, soups, salads, chili and a selection of baked goods to accompany their coffee.
In what I would call a multi-purposed visit, this weekend I rounded up some other registered voters from the 66th assembly district and stopped in to sample the Blind Tiger’s wares, visit with friends, and offer moral and financial support to the place while they sort things out. Late Sunday afternoon, Wife, Downstairs, Octopus and I took a tour of the menu:
Rafael’s 7 Pepper Chili-Sirloin, pork shoulder, fresh & dried chilis and lager: This is a properly substantial chili with a nice spice (maybe 2-2.5 alarm). A thick amalgam of rough chopped, deeply flavored tender bits of pork and beef topped with sour cream and some fresh cilantro leaves, a seriously great chili that will be perfect with a bottle of Magic Hat Blind Faith or a Rogue Chocolate Stout.
The chili came with fantastic grilled slab bacon cornbread, alone meriting a visit at any time of day.
Grilled Cheese with Gruyere and Sharp Cheddar with Beer-Stewed Hot Peppers & Onions: If you are going to make a grilled cheese on the same island as Murray’s Cheese Shop you better do a good job; if you are going to do it across the street it better be great, and this one is. All the sandwiches at Blind Tiger are served on ciabatta from Tom Cat Bakery which has a pronouncedly airy crumb that lends a light sensation to the sandwiches and allows this version of the grilled cheese to use healthy amounts of the gruyere and cheddar without going too far and getting thick. The pepper and onion sauce that accompanied brought nice acid-driven sweet and sour notes to contrast the general creaminess of the sandwich. This is going to be perfect with a Duvel or a Lindemans Framboise Lambic.
Bloody Beast-House-Made Roast Beef, Sharp Cheddar, red onion, whipped Horse Radish served with Louise’s Bloody Mary Sauce: Sandwiches made with thinly sliced home-roasted beef are great even if the beef is not as well made as this. In this case, the meat has a soft warm sanguine bite that easily tears as you pull it from your teeth. The Bloody Mary dipping sauce thinned the thickness of these flavors which was welcome once I started the second half, this is a considerable morsel indeed. Well suited to something like a Sierra Nevada Porter or an Arrogant Bastard Ale.
Green Ham & Cheese-House-Roasted Ham Gruyere and avocado spread: Here you have a sandwich that nears perfection; warm, salty, rich and lactic, it was just pleasing to eat. My suspicion is if you slice up the cornichons served with it (and all the other sandwiches) or, even better, get a side dish of the pickled jalapenos that come with the Tigre Ciego, the contrast of sourness will take the whole to an astounding place. This one is going to knock it out of the park with something like a Brooklyn Pilsner or a Jever Lime.
As for coffee, to tie it all up I had a short espresso with a medium to heavy body and firm viscosity with aromas of corn, bakers’ chocolate, and roasted peanut and a slightly piquant palate which kicks the volatile oils out of anything being stamped out at Charbucks.
At this point, Blind Tiger offers an inviting and a comfortable space in which to enjoy good espresso and tasty grub while we wait for the government to find the sense to allow us to return to the contemplation of serious beer in the good company of neighbors. In the meantime, what place could be better for some sober contemplation over who to vote for for State Assembly?