Room to call your own (don’t hold the bacon)
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
As Christine Fall recently worked on her computer, she sat at a raised wooden table and enjoyed a leisurely lunch of grilled chicken sandwich and a fresh green salad.
Fall’s respite wasn’t had at a local park or a café.
Instead, Fall was stationed at a pub, the kind of place more likely to be associated with a far more raucous mood and far simpler fare.
The menu is one of the many ways Le Chéile, on West 181st and Cabrini Boulevard, has confounded easy categorization.
During the day, it serves lunch, brunch and also functions as a salon of sorts as many patrons scribble in notebooks and gaze upon computer and smartphone screens while chatting among themselves.
And the food has proven as pleasant a lure as the ambience.
“I never had anything I didn’t like,” said Fall, who lives around the corner and calls herself a regular.
While it was grilled chicken for lunch that afternoon, one of her favorite Le Chéile dishes is the veggie burger.
“They have a good mix of meat and veggies,” she said.
In fact, Le Chéile has ten unique vegetable dishes, known as “Farmer’s Sides,” including the highly recommended Brussel sprouts with caramelized shallots and bacon.
Everyone has a favorite.
Manager Clare Donnelly favors the grilled cheese sandwich.
“It’s gorgeous. Most grown men can’t even finish it,” she said.
Another great plate?
Irish bacon is similar to the Canadian variety. Unlike the American bacon which appears in long strips and comes from pork belly, Irish bacon comes from the pig’s hind quarters – and is not fried.
And it is not a side dish, as is often the case on American menus; Irish bacon is front and center as its own meal.
At Le Chéile, it is served in sumptuous, thickly cut slices of bright pink meat, and seems to carry a hint of corned beef.
The bacon is served with two familiar accompaniments.
The mashed potatoes are hearty and creamy, and sport ribbons of flavorful skin, while the heaping serving of cabbage is tender and aromatic. There is also a rich smoked Gouda cheese sauce, deeply flecked with green parsley. Whether you prefer a delicate drizzle or a deluge, the sauce is a delight.
Le Chéile, which means “together” in Gaelic, aims to please.
“We want people to come here and feel welcome,” added Donnelly.
There does seem to be something for everyone at Le Chéile. That is evident in a selection that is eclectic and sprawling in its reach: shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, octopus salad, chicken masala, and more.
There is ample room too in which to enjoy your meal.
A large dining space and bar occupy the first floor, with a separate room that doubles as a gallery. There is another dining room on the second floor, complete with another bar.
Donnelly, a native of Tyrone County in Ireland, says Le Chéile’s atmosphere, within which there is no loud music and no television screens, encourages genuine interaction.
Those around her agreed.
“It’s relaxed,” said Fall. “I like the atmosphere here.”
831 West 181st Street
New York, NY 10033