d hamburgers to NYU students and residents of the West Village, the diner Village Den has closed. Keeping the same name, it has been taken over by Antoni Porowski — best known as the food and drink expert on the Netflix show “Queer Eye.”
Porowski has replaced the former diner’s mouthwatering hangover food with diet-friendly, gluten-free, low-carb meals. While the food will definitely make you feel less guilty about that slice (or was it three?) of Joe’s Pizza you ate last Friday, it will also leave a mark on your bank account.
Located across the street from the fitness center Equinox, it’s clear that The Village Den’s target audience is health-conscious, West Village 20-somethings. Outside the cafe, there is a sign with the text “On the Corner of Vegan and Paleo.” Inside, the diner is filled with communal tables, with a cute cartoon map of the West Village pasted on the wall. Many guests work on their laptops, which gives the restaurant a nonchalant vibe.
The Village Den serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A sign above the counter displays six different categories to choose from: Coffee, Breakfast, Salads, Bowls, TV Dinners and Smoothies. Symbols next to each dish identify it as vegan, keto-friendly, gluten-free or Whole-30 suitable. Because of close attention to nutritional value, it seems a bit odd that the menu doesn’t display calorie counts.
I ordered the $13.50 Sicilian C-Bomb salad, which includes citrus, avocado, shaved fennel, pomegranate seeds and roasted pistachios. I also ordered a $4 oat-milk latte and one of the restaurant’s TV Dinners called the Market Plate, which comes with three sides for $13. From the 12 available sides, I choose sweet potato fries, mashed peas with mint and cauliflower rice.
After less than five minutes of ordering, a very hip-looking waiter in a black turtleneck told me that my food was ready to be picked up from the counter.
The food was served in a dull grey to-go container in a way I imagine only prison food is served. The food tasted only decent. The fries were over-steamed to the point of resembling mashed potatoes, and my salad was so calorie-restricted that it tasted more like an appetizer than a meal. My side of rice was room temperature with an oatmeal-like consistency. For the amount of money I paid for the meal, I expected the food to be higher quality.
Ultimately, I think my view of the restaurant and the quality of its food can be summed up with this: If I had to choose between the Village Den’s salad and Kimmel’s falafel bowl, I would definitely go with Kimmel’s, but then again, Kimmel doesn’t have oat milk.
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