The Smile is a dimly lit, rustic, and cozy restaurant. The first thing you notice, other than that it’s located slightly below street level, is that it’s almost all brown wood: the tables, chairs, railings, floors, ceilings, and exterior. There is one brick wall, but it pretty much blends in perfectly as it’s more or less the same color as all the wood. Though it may sound odd, it works well enough and creates a rugged and unfussy atmosphere. Nice for a casual brunch or dinner with another individual or small group.
The space is bigger than you’d think from the outside. It’s quite long and they manage to fit in a lot of seating in the form of round tables, square tables, high tops, and counter seating without it seeming too crowded. Weekend brunch is the most popular time, so there does tend to be a wait, but it’s very manageable (usually under 20 minutes) and the rest of the time, you would likely be seated right away. No reservations allowed for brunch, but you can make them at other times.
The Smile is an all day cafe, so it’s open from morning until midnight, offering every meal. Established 8 years ago and having found success, it has expanded to having three smaller take-away only locations.
The main sit-down restaurant offers simple, fresh continental fare, with a slight Mediterranean-inspired leaning, which becomes more obvious at dinner time than breakfast or lunch.
For the earlier meals, you’ll find many standard options like egg dishes, granola, oatmeal, and toasts for breakfast and sandwiches, salads, and bowls for lunch. Dinner offers both appetizers (where the Mediterranean influence really comes out) and entrees. Though the menu is succinct, there is a good option for just about any mood you’re in. All the bases are covered with exactly one option each of fish, chicken, beef, pasta, and vegetarian.
A special shout out goes out to their ricotta, which is home-made and pretty delicious. Ricotta, a mild and ultra-commercialized cheese, is often just fine. But their home-made version is flavorful with an aerated texture and a hint of tang. It pairs very well with the multi-grain toast, which is super seedy and thick cut.
And their harissa honey roasted chicken breast sandwich with roasted red pepper, manchego, and preserved lemon-mayo on a baguette routinely makes the list of one of the best sandwiches in NYC. Though I disagree that it deserves that title, it’s always a good option.
The food is solid and I’d feel comfortable ordering most anything. That being said, I don’t think there’s any meal that is truly stand-out or amazing. It’s the type of place where many things are good, but nothing is truly great. So if you were stuck eating at the same restaurant every day for the next 2 weeks, this would be a good option because of the variety and quality of the food. But if you wanted to find your next obsession or favorite dish, you’d look elsewhere. It’s dependable, though, which is higher praise than it sounds.