Nestled on the corner of Bedford and Grove are two very important Manhattan landmarks: Monica Gellar's apartment from Friends (cue the nostalgia) and right where we imagine the Central Perk to be is a quaint restaurant filled with welcoming energy and delicious food: the Little Owl. This hospitable neighborhood gem has become extremely popular since its opening in 2006 and its six oz. bacon cheeseburger was even named one of the best burgers in the world. In addition to its renowned burger, the Little Owl offers customers an array of Mediterranean dishes along with some classic finger foods such as the famous gravy meatball sliders and crunchy chicken fingers.
Unlike many trendy New York restaurants that tend to have pretentious, uptight atmospheres, the Little Owl has a warm, relaxed ambiance. The hosts greet customers with charming smiles and the servers answer questions about the food with effortless enthusiasm and honesty. Despite the hustle and bustle in the 32-seat dining room, each server tends to every table with grace and affability.
During lunch hour, one can't help but notice the sea of six o.z. bacon cheeseburgers being handed out from table to table. Previous rankings and delighted customer reactions definitely indicate that the bacon cheeseburger is a winner, but the rest of the Little Owl's menu is also highly impressive. The remaining dishes are inspired by Mediterranean cuisine with a hint of American influence.
The three luscious homemade gravy meatball sliders are the perfect starters for either lunch or dinner. Each meatball is infused with pork, veal and beef and simmered on low to retain the most flavor. The meatballs are then doused in tomato gravy made with onion, garlic, parsley and fennel seeds, and sandwiched between three homemade rolls topped and baked with fresh pecorino.
The grilled salmon is a delectable entrée served with corn, green bean ragout and romaine hearts. It is perfect for the health-conscious eater who doesn't want to compromise taste for nutrients. Cooked medium rare (unless ordered otherwise), the salmon has a crisp, flaky exterior and a tender core. The romaine hearts sit atop the filet with a cream sauce drizzle and the green bean ragout and corn are a fresh compliment to every bite.
The lobster risotto is a classically rich entrée with truffle, mushrooms and peas. Each ingredient blends together perfectly in this creamy main course.
While the Little Owl offers a range of side dishes from French fries in a chile aioli to sesame summer vegetables in a cilantro and oyster sauce, the Mexican corn with spicy mayo and queso is definitely a great choice to have with any main course. The spicy mayo and queso melt together to give the corn a creamy texture and a zesty flavor.
Another standout item from the lunch menu is the Italian pork bun with sharp provolone, broccoli rabe and pepper salad, and one of the most popular dinner dishes is the pork chop and butter beans with Parmesan and wild dandelion. While these are the most popular, the rest of the items on the menu are sure to live up to these high standards. Chef Joey Campanaro redesigns the menu each season and incorporates new, unique ingredients to keep dining exciting and delicious.
Needless to say the Little Owl has a lot to offer. The staff has worked very hard to ensure that their customers get the best treatment and the highest quality food possible. "Our mission is to make every customer feel like they are welcome in every way," reservationist Hannah Murphy explained. "From making their reservation to when they pay the bill, we are always intent on providing them with a meaningful experience."