56 MacDougal Street between Houston and Prince
about $120 for four, with drinks, with tip
12 Chairs tastes so much better from the outside than inside. We were famished, but another restaurant around the area couldn’t accommodate four people for at least another hour. We walked down one of my favorite streets in the city and stopped in front of 12 Chairs. It’s one of the restaurants on the block I’ve been meaning to check out but never remember to visit when I’m in the neighborhood. It looked good when we peeked from the street, so we went inside.
And then a shock of light surprised us. Did it all of a sudden transform into a pizza parlor? Why the hell is it so bright inside? We were there with a couple more people, but the space felt abandoned and lonely. The Mediterranean menu looked simple enough, but nothing was so exciting that we just ended up ordering a bunch of appetizers.
I liked the stuffed grape leaves–I never skip them when I see them on any menu. A soft yogurt dip drizzled with olive oil came with them. I appreciated that the beets weren’t from a can, and believe me, even New York restaurants do that. 12 Chairs roasted them just right. The egg salad guacamole was a more interesting dip than it sounds and a good accompaniment to the falafel and pita bread. The veal dumplings were on the heavier side, and the chicken pockets–I don’t know why any restaurant would admit to calling them that–were stuffed with spinach. I was a little more hungry, but because I was already feeling unsure about 12 Chairs, I ordered the safest thing on their list: a medium-rare burger. It unfortunately came with Thousand Island dressing, which I’ve asked to be left out, but it was satisfying until the last bite.