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Dimes Square dining
Ernesto's, Corner Bar, Casino
RESTAURANTS • LOST, FINDING, FOUND
I don’t make it to Dimes Square, the rebranded micro-neighborhood deep in the Lower East Side, as often as I did when I lived on Rivington St. But there’s a restaurant scene flourishing there, which is why, on a recent midweek evening, I came to be dining at Casino.
The restaurant, which opened in December in a space previously occupied by Mission Chinese, seems to have come out of nowhere to capture some early buzz. The proprietor, Aisa Shelley, has a little downtown empire in the making, adding Casino to a nightlife portfolio that also includes Primo’s in Tribeca and Mr. Fong’s in Chinatown.
Early in the night, Casino had space for us as walk-ins. Seated at a banquette table towards the rear of the dining room, we could marvel at the painted concrete floors, the half-finished look of the room, and the twentysomething couple next to us both ordering espresso martinis. We had real martinis (good), and pappardelle with lamb-garlic sugo (not good). A good place to be drunk or young — ideally both.
Seeking culinary redemption, we walked into Corner Bar a few blocks down at Nine Orchard, subject of recent FOUND interest. I chatted up the bartender. “We don’t get those people,” he said longingly of the Dimes Square natives that populate Casino, while gesturing to his corner table where his customers reclined in tourist-issue t-shirts and shorts (it wasn’t even warm out yet).
Although the food at Corner Bar remains strong — a celery root salad served like pasta is exactly at the level expected from chef Ignacio Mattos (Estela, Lodi, et al) — one can’t help but wonder how long until they acknowledge that they’re really just running a hotel restaurant here and adjust accordingly.
Meantime, the best cooking in the neighborhood continues to be found further up East Broadway at Ernesto’s (above). An early dinner in March at the bar of this Basque-inspired restaurant that opened just before pandemic worked in every way — including the fact that, at 6pm, we were pretty much the only people in the room. Sliced Iberico with potato chips for all my friends. –Lockhart Steele