Virginia’s Is Back — and So Is That Burger
East Villagers had good reason to mourn on Dec. 31, 2021, the last night of service at neighborhood favorite Virginia’s on East 11th Street near Avenue C. Happily, their grief was short-lived, as just over a year later, it’s back.
Originally opened in 2015, Virginia’s quickly burst at its modest seams to accommodate eager diners once word got out about its decadently delicious burger. That burger, the rest of the globally inspired menu, plus the cozy ambiance brought brisk business. But there was the matter of the lease, and when it came up, owner Reed Adelson took the opportunity to search for a larger space. Here’s everything you need to know about Virginia’s comeback.
1. The new spot isn’t far from the original.
Though swift, it wasn’t a particularly easy journey for Adelson to find a new home for Virginia’s. “Eight years ago, I had zero kids when I opened the original. Now I have two kids. I think that might have had something to do with the differential,” he jokes. It was New York City real estate that presented the real challenges in the search, though — too small, too expensive, no gas, no liquor — before the team settled on the former Root & Bone space on East 3rd St.
After a top-to-bottom renovation, the now larger Virginia’s features some familiar décor details, such as banquette seating and a collection of vintage menus adorning the walls, along with some recognizable menu items and a tightened overall concept.
2. The new chef team celebrates raw bar and steakhouse favorites.
In a departure from the globetrotting menu of previous chef Pablo Mendoza, Virginia’s menu now skews more toward the Americas, and specifically the classic New York steakhouse. Justin Lee (formerly of Barbuto, Fat Choy, and Lafayette) and Isamar Checo (formerly of Yves) combine efforts in the kitchen, with a menu of approachable, updated classics. The raw bar features shrimp cocktail with Calabrian chile aioli and clams casino; steak tartare with grainy mustard and brioche headlines the appetizers; and genre-defining dishes such as crab cake remoulade and steak frites with maître d’ butter and greens comprise the mains.
Adelson’s goal this go-round is to bring his team’s high-service experience from spots such as Charlie Trotter’s and Locanda Verde to fill a gap in the neighborhood for casual, yet exceptional, American bistro dining, “More of the type of thing that you see a lot of in the West Village,” Adelson says. “The ultimate aim is intimacy and fun.”
3. But don’t worry, the burger is back!
When the burger debuted as an off-the-menu item back in 2015, it landed on many best of lists for a reason: It’s a meat-lover’s reverie, with a thick, Cabot cheddar-draped beef patty topped with a slightly sweet onion marmalade. Bone marrow aioli makes it a veritable umami bomb.
Rest assured, despite new chefs in the house, not a thing about it has changed. “There would be an uproar within the masses if we had changed anything,” Adelson says, and yes, you can still add bacon and/or an egg to make it extra substantial. Other return engagements include fries with garlic aioli and an updated version of the wild mushroom risotto, now with Parmesan and confit tomatoes.
4. And that burger is so powerful it inspired the new cocktail list.
“The burger is so dominant, that we built the cocktail list with it in mind,” Adelson says. Beverage director Evan Hawkins (formerly of Broken Shaker, Soho House) has taken that direction and run with it.
So, what goes well with a burger? Well, there’s Virginia’s martini, for starters, served dirty with blue cheese-stuffed olives. Otherwise, there’s the poppy, purple-hued Debbie Gibson, a blend of gin, Spanish vermouth, pickled pink pear onion and Himalayan pink sea salt. A mezcal Negroni promises to become a popular order, too.
5. Don’t sleep on the wine list, however.
The wine list, personally curated by Adelson, features 22 selections primed to pair with every nuance of the menu and, as he describes it, is “mostly natural, entirely organic, and biodynamic as much as possible,” with selections such as Vermentino, Albariño, and orange wines from both domestic and European vineyards. All are geared to complement everything from the burger to roasted carrot salad with almond romesco and goat cheese.
6. There will be brunch.
Launching on April 22, weekend brunch offers yet another opportunity to enjoy that burger, along with an “elevated avocado toast,” brunch cocktails, and more. Adelson hints at lunch aspirations as well.
7. The best news? Your chances of scoring a seat are 50% higher.
The interior of the new Virginia’s has 60 seats as opposed to the original’s 38, and 60 outdoor seats — 30 open on the sidewalk and 30 more to come on the street — as opposed to the original’s 40, which means scoring a Resy is easier than ever before.
Virginia’s is currently open Tuesday to Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m. Brunch debuts on April 22.