Houseman is the type of place that tempts you to keep it a secret all to yourself, but you can’t, because it’s that good. All photos courtesy of Houseman

Letter of RecommendationNew York

Why Houseman Is the Perfect Spot to Be a Regular


Standing on a block in the far reaches of Soho, in little-known Hudson Square, there’s a restaurant that feels pleasantly out of place, something you might find in Asheville, N.C., Nashville, or Brooklyn. It improves with each visit. The staff starts to know your tastes and, if you’re lucky, they might save you your favorite bar seat. It caters to its locals, but isn’t afraid to challenge them. It’s the type of place that tempts you to keep it a secret all to yourself, but you can’t, because it’s that good.

Living in a city where a new hot spot opens every week, keeping up with the dining culture can feel exhausting. Houseman exists outside of it all. It’s anti-trend. It’s not “about” a highly Instagrammable dish or a must-have cocktail. It has a quiet, confident excellence that requires no showing off. It’s an unpretentious restaurant that you can’t stop thinking about. And that’s why I keep coming back.

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In 2015, chef Ned Baldwin opened Houseman. The restaurant’s name originates from the Norwegian word, “hussmanskost,” which roughly translates to seasonal, local food. And that’s always been the ethos with Baldwin’s near daily changing menu.

Baldwin honed his skills under chef Gabrielle Hamilton at her much beloved Prune. He’s approachable, cool, and has had many jobs that have included being a ceramicist, carpenter, chef, and now, saltwater fisherman. That eclecticism is felt in his menu which, depending on the night, can include toasted seed- and dill-topped beets, a Mexican-inspired housemade goat sausage, and a classic-as-it-gets all-American hamburger. In some restaurants, this might seem half baked, but Baldwin has the skills and the perspective to see it through. He knows what his regulars want before they do, and he executes them perfectly to a T.

Photo by Liz Clayman, courtesy of Houseman
Photo by Liz Clayman, courtesy of Houseman

I first discovered Houseman through a recipe for a roasted squash salad. I was living in LA at the time and desperately missing New York, particularly the restaurants, and needed something to bring to a Thanksgiving potluck. The fact that the recipe employed a favorite ingredient, kabocha, sold me, as did the herbaceous and atypical salsa verde that topped it. I earmarked Houseman for a visit the next time I was in town. And from the moment I stepped through its doors, I knew I’d be back.

If you’ve never been to Houseman before, you get the feeling you might be the only one during that first visit. There’s a familiarity in the room where guests know the staff and sometimes each other. Baldwin says his favorite nights are “when different tables know each other, and the dining room starts to feel like a big party.”

The mood at Houseman is welcoming. It’s the opposite of when a maître d that insists your whole party be present before you can be seated, or being given a two-hour wait for the privilege of a mere barstool. It’s more, “Come on in, we’d love to have you, and we’ll figure it out.”

The first time I went to Houseman was for a celebration. I had just signed a lease on a new apartment and wanted a night on the town. It was a bustling Friday night, one of the “only-in-New York” types. I drank some very special wine, ate those savory beets, and a bounty of late summer produce, and meandered home, pleasantly full, a little tipsy, and elated. It was a long, drawn-out evening I will never forget. I’ve since been back on a quiet Tuesday when I wanted something different, or for a quick dinner en route to a play around the corner. Exactly what each of those nights called for. If a friend is in town last minute and I haven’t planned ahead, Houseman comes to the rescue. Two barstools or even a prime time two-top can be within reach.

The food at Houseman is also geared toward us regulars, with comforting classics that are the very definition of an American bistro: crispy skinned roast chicken, a double patty cheeseburger, and herb-scented steak frites.

A view into the kitchen.
A view into the kitchen.

“Having those items on the menu is a handshake with the neighborhood that gives us permission to explore and to fill the rest of the menu with whatever we feel like cooking,” says Baldwin. “We have a running dialogue with customers about what’s in season, what people are hungry for, and that’s why we change the menu often.” In addition to those bistro classics, the restaurant does some of the best vegetables in town. Those vinegary seed- and dill-topped beets are almost always on the menu.

From the moment I stepped through its doors, I knew I’d be back.

On a recent visit, I discovered new dishes: braised spring onions with XO romesco, and roasted Taishan cauliflower with kabocha squash in a fermented black bean sauce. Even the arugula in their version of a simple green salad is the most delicate, yet peppery, fresh from the farmer’s market, variety that transcends it from predictable appetizer to a memorable dish.

And if you become a regular, you’ll be clued into Houseman’s favorite off-menu item: a plate salad of crisp little gems and diced avocado, topped with toasted seeds and a rich green goddess dressing.

For other restaurants that like to cater to a perhaps less adventurous crowd, the wine list can skew toward the predictable: a Napa Cab, a pedestrian chardonnay, or a watery pinot grigio. But that’s not the case here. The list has become a frequent topic of conversation between Baldwin and guests, dotted with hard-to-find co-ferments, oranges, and chilled reds. Cocktail wise, Houseman does the standards — your Negronis, Manhattans, and a grapefruit-y riff on a margarita — but done with exactitude. Nothing is phoned in. Every detail is considered.

In a city where the dining culture can feel like a blood sport — and by that I mean setting multiple Resy Notify alerts set to secure that Friday night four-top — it’s refreshing to let all that go and just be a regular. Sometimes with a Resy in hand, sometimes without. To go to a place where, as cliché as it might be, everyone knows your name.

Houseman is that place for me, and now that I’ve told you, I hope it still can be.

Houseman is open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner and weekend brunch.

Kyle Beechey is a New York-based freelance writer and dinner party enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.