Tess Serves Upscale American Food, Tap Beer and Peace and Quiet
Tess is a lovely spot. It’s the kind of place that plays jazz at a level so unobtrusive you may wonder if you’re hallucinating it, and features upscale American fare. Tucked away a few blocks northwest of the Lower East Side’s loudness, it’s a perfectly quiet spot tucked into an unassuming place in a primarily residential neighborhood just across from the old Red Dot (R.I.P.).
Address: 2499 N. Bartlett Ave.
Price range: $$-$$$
Handicapped access: Yes
CC, FB, OD, FF, RS, GF
Hours: Su 5-9 p.m., Tu-Th 5-9 p.m., F-Sa 5-10 p.m.
Upon entering the comfortable space, you’re greeted with a menu that offers up three courses. Big eaters will be happy to know that one item from each of the course options will satiate; those of us with smaller stomachs can rest easy knowing no course is absolute.
Beer aficionados take note: Their 14 taps, including one nitro, encompass all styles, from IPAs to sours to stouts to red ales, and if you still don’t find something you like, there’s a comprehensive bottle list (act now on the 2014 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot!). Of course, for the wine-minded, there’s a nice list of house wines poured by the glass and bottles for popping. Tess also offers a full bar with a serious house martini list, though I must suggest a Junípero gin and tonic with a dash of bitters for an aperitif.
In terms of first course options, the crab cake ($10) is tough to beat—it’s served, weirdly and beautifully, with a house-made potato chip that’s longer than any potato chip you’ll ever see again in your life. It sticks out like a birthday candle in a cake. The crab cake itself is beautifully delicate with a spicy remoulade that has a surprising kick. A red pepper coulis gives the plate a bright red Pollock-style splash and, along with the greens upon which the crab cake is served, provides the dish some earthy grounding.
A standout entrée, the cider-brined grilled pork tenderloin ($23) was outstanding—the last refuges of autumn upon a plate. Served alongside perfectly seasoned roasted fingerling potatoes and sautéed baby carrots, the tenderloin’s natural porkiness was counterbalanced by the presence of Wisconsin Honeycrisp apples that gave the dish sweet and lightly sour notes. The plate is hearty and comforting, much like Tess itself.
For a vegetarian dish, the red sorghum bowl ($18) was surprisingly toothsome. The presence of mushrooms gave the dish a welcome meatiness, while an acidic tomatillo presence made it feel more alive than a simple batch of grains.
Ultimately, Tess is a nice, relaxing spot—a good place to take in some quietude and get full before you traipse off to a bar on the Lower East Side, say, or to play a round of mini golf at Nine Below. Duck in and relax.