Smyth Tavern in Tribeca is a multi-purpose Clubby restaurant in New York – Robb Report

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“Upscale comfort food” seems like an oxymoron, but prolific New York restaurateur John McDonald (Lure Fishbar, Bar Tulix) is betting on that cuisine with his latest spot, Smyth Tavern in Tribeca.

Open Thursday, the restaurant serves an updated menu of classics, for a fresh twist on pending American tavern fare. The overall goal, said McDonald Robb Reportis to offer a range of options that will allow Smyth Tavern to fill a void in the neighborhood, where he says there aren’t a ton of serious restaurants.

“Tribeca is kind of like a city within a city,” he said. “We can be upscale but still be a restaurant that’s not very fussy or valuable, and in my opinion that encompasses the perfect mix…I think that’s the perfect combo.”

The hamburger

Briana Balducci

The restaurant’s small plates run the gamut from branzino sliders with chili pepper and tartar sauce to meatballs with creamy polenta and tomato sauce. The raw bar serves oysters, of course, along with a serrano chili salmon tiradito and yuzu miso vinaigrette. Food-wise, what’s a tavern without its signature burger? The Smyth version comes with bacon onion jam, American cheese, special sauce, onion rings and fries. And pasta lovers would be remiss not to order the house mafaldine with lobster shank and claw, plain butter and chili flakes.

While Smyth Tavern offers an extensive wine list and a few beers, the restaurant specializes in perfecting classic cocktails. You can take your pick from rosé Negronis, highballs, spritzes, martinis, and palomas, but the real star might be the $40 Smyth Manhattan, which isn’t for the faint-hearted. The drink includes Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, Abasolo Corn Whiskey, Suntory Toki, St. Agrestis Amaro, and Method Spirits Vermouth.

The interior of Smyth's Tavern

The interior of the restaurant

Briana Balducci

The 100-seat dining room was designed by McDonald’s alongside James Beard Award-winning studio Meyer Davis. Deep wood paneling and red leather booths are reminiscent of old-fashioned steakhouses: “It’s super dark, very warm, it’s a very atmospheric room,” McDonald said. Rotating artwork from downtown galleries, however, brings a bit of modern NYC to the space. As you gulp down your burger, you might find yourself admiring a photograph by Peter Schlesinger or an artwork by Anne Collier. “It subtly adds a level of seriousness and sophistication without having to say it,” McDonald added.

Smyth Tavern is now open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Later this summer, the restaurant is expanding with outdoor patio seating as well as an adjacent bar and late-night lounge.

Click here to view all Smyth Tavern photos.

A sample of the menu

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