End of Freeman Alley, off Rivington Street between the Bowery and Chrystie Street
about $80 for two, with drinks, with tip
Package something well and watch the people come. This seems to be Freemans’ motto and it works. First, the location that still confuses people who do not hang-out in the area: where the hell is Freeman Alley? It’s a nook off Rivington, right before you hit Chrystie if you’re coming from the west. Then there’s the design of the space: modeled after a country lodge, there are stuffed birds behind the newer bar inside. I never thought of having my own deer antlers in my apartment until I first stepped into Freeman’s a couple of years ago.
The owners, William Tigertt and Taavo Somer, know that New Yorkers love being a part of something cool. From secret entrances that Angel’s Share made hip more than ten years ago, to douchebars blocked by big, burly men, we all like to brag that we got in before anyone else. In Freemans nowadays, you can count how many guys with facial hair are wearing fedoras and sweater vests under their blazers. After a while, everyone just looks the same.
What doesn’t change, though, is the length of wait and the service. I have spent an hour at the bar drinking with my friend waiting to be seated. I have also stood at the bar waiting to be seated at the bar. (Freemans only takes reservations for groups larger than six.) The other patrons can get testy and who can blame them when people hover, waiting to grab their seat? I have seen this happen where angry words were exchanged between hungry guests. The exhausted maitre d’ also gets impatient. God forbid, you ask how much longer you have to wait.
As soon as you’re seated, you just want to eat. There was an Estonian empanada our waiter couldn’t describe. I think the cook’s mom is from Estonia, he simply said, before he walked away to mind the three other tables next to us. When he finally returned, he took our orders down and we waited another thirty minutes before everything was served all at once. We were eating our artichoke dip with our fennel salad and our main course of roasted cod. We never heard from him again until we waved to get our checks. Good thing I’ve had enough Rum Swizzles to numb the painful experience of trying to be hip.