Rubbin’ It in the East Village: Back Forty

Back Forty Logo

The Back Forty Logo

When I stepped into Back Forty, I was struck by how nice it was.

Nice wood floors. Nice wood bar. Nice coasters with a nice “Back Forty” logo. A nice piece of wood on the wall which says “Back Forty.” A nice drink called “The Back Forty.” Rotisserie chicken with some nice Back Forty Spice Rub.


Located at 190 Avenue B and 12th St., I wouldn’t have expected all this niceness. Maybe a bit edgier decor for starters – or raw like Seymour Burton‘s interior. But the owners of Back Forty (Susan Rosenfeld, Peter Hoffman and Jerry Winter, who also own Savoy Restaurant on Prince) have brought their SoHo magic north in hopes of reaching out to the migrating swarms of yuppies lonely for a meal in a nice interior.

On Friday night, I steadily hit one hot spot after another from First Avenue to Avenue B, and to its credit, Back Forty was the only place that I could find a reasonably quiet bar with open bar stools in the East Village at 7:30 p.m…. which makes one wonder: Why isn’t this place crowded?

Back Forty Drink Lurking

Back Forty Drink Lurking

My first guess is the $10 drinks and namely, the “signature cocktail” as the bartender called it, “The Back Forty.”

If you’re pushing $10 cocktails on Avenue B, it better be worth it. I’m not sure if I expected horses to run out from behind the bar when I ordered it, but upon arrival, the cocktail amounted to a Kentucky Screwdriver: bourbon, lemon and maple syrup. Nearly tasting like a Pina Colada, the drink was a non-starter on a Friday for this self-proclaimed maven of East Village eateries: If it’s the end of the week and I’m looking to unwind, I would expect a bourbon drink to back a punch. This one was punch with no punch. Plus, it was $10.

Nevertheless, at least there were open seats at the bar. I kept an open mind and the feta cheese appetizer with toasted brown bread arrived next.

Much to my surprise, the dish tasted like I would expect cubes of Feta on brown bread to taste and left me hoping that Back Forty would bust out with something unexpected soon.

Back Forty Undercover Photo

Back Forty Undercover Photo

Having moved from bar to table, it was time to order dinner which for myself included the aforementioned Rotisserie Chicken with Back Forty Spice Rub, a side of au gratin potatoes and – to start – an order of whipped chicken livers. It should be noted that most everything is a la carte at Back Forty. “A la carte” appears to be an ongoing trend in East Village restaurants in order to make everything look cheaper when, in fact, it likely makes the entire meal even more expensive.

Regarding the chicken livers, I realize they are not for everyone. I, too, have nightmarish stories to tell of liverwurst sandwiches I was required to eat in grade school and the unpleasant aroma (and echoing consequences) of liver breath: “Hey Guys, where you goin?!”

But, something about age allows the world of liver to re-enter one’s culinary desires. At least it has for me. Back Forty’s chicken liver was the value of the evening with a big honkin’ dollop of whipped chicken liver and all the toasted bread I could eat for about $8.

Next came the chicken with the BF rub. Aye, the rub. It would have been good but sadly the chicken underneath the rub was overcooked, dry and a bit stringy. The slim portion of cheesy potatoes was way too cheesy and salty.

After dropping $130 between myself and a fellow E.V. diner, not even the Led Zeppelin soundtrack playing in the background could overcome a meal that had crashed into the proverbial wall and burst into flames.

Now I understood why it was easy to get into Back Forty. Nice and easy, that is.

Back Forty Rub

Rubbin’ The Chicken


April 12th, 2008

Entry Filed under: Food


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