After just four years taking up residence at the corner of Bowery and Houston, Cherche Midi will be closing its doors. Victimized in part by the seemingly permanent road construction that surrounded the restaurant, this bistro was never able to get over the hump, despite the pedigree it brought along at the outset.
That was Keith McNally, who was previously responsible for making establishments like Pastis or Soho’s Balthazar regular go-to places for hungry diners. Cherche Midi was a bistro that excelled when it came to a delicate item like pommes souffles, thanks to the work of the restaurant’s first co-chefs, Shane McBride and Daniel Parilla.
Yet something like that menu item was pretty much out of the ordinary for a restaurant that focused on getting the basics right. That included the atmosphere, where a quiet oasis amid the noisy surrounding community offered a clear opportunity to enjoy a meal in peace, without blaring canned music being heard.
Often, it was seen as a place that found a perfect middle ground between outstanding cuisine with a fast-casual attitude. Whether or not the more common approach caused fine diners to shy away is uncertain, yet it’s clear that not enough of them walked through the doors.
Among those basics in which Cherche Midi excelled was in the area of prime rib. Teamed with the traditional salad, those inviting pommes souffles and some onions that were lovingly braised, what was supposed to be an unbeatable cornerstone ultimately ended up going into the defeat column for McNally.
When Cherche Midi arrived in June 2014, it was as a replacement for Pulino, a pizzeria that didn’t work out for McNally. Having been a fixture on the New York restaurant scene for over three decades, this momentary stumble now becomes a delicious footnote in history.