All photos courtesy of The Commerce Inn

Dish By DishNew York

How Rita Sodi and Jody Williams Craft New Tavern-Style Classics at The Commerce Inn


The Commerce Inn occupies a quaint, somewhat secluded corner space in the West Village, and it’s here that chefs and owners Rita Sodi and Jody Williams, the dynamic duo behind favorites like I Sodi, Via Carota, and Buvette, are putting forth simple, excellent tavern-style food that embraces Shaker influences.

There are thick porkchops, hearty patty melts, homemade relishes, spoon bread (a kind of cornbread), old-fashioned rarebit (bread with cheese), and pickled beets on the menu, which is even printed in an olde English-style font. On weekends, they’ve started serving brunch, which features dishes like salt beef hash with dropped eggs, fluffy stacks of pancakes, and half fried chicken with hot pepper jelly.

For two chefs who’ve made names for themselves in the realms of French and Italian cuisine, The Commerce Inn symbolizes their embrace of Americana, something they’ve wanted to do for some time.

“The concept for the spot was floating around with us for more than a decade,” Williams notes. “I just remember opening up these old books, manuscripts, and recipes — it was really challenging to figure out how we could make some of these older things. In the end, it’s a little tavern where you can come to eat and drink.”

Here’s a closer look at six dishes, in Williams’ own words, which best exemplify the menu at The Commerce Inn.

1. Kedgeree

Curried rice, smoked cod, soft boiled egg | Brunch

“I’m always looking for dishes that I don’t always see everywhere. When I want to go out to brunch, I want to eat something that I’ve enjoyed elsewhere, and maybe then something that isn’t so common. I think there’s a balance on the menu of iconic kinds of tavern dishes, and other things like this.

“On the preparation side, we’re making a rice pilaf. We sauté the onions and the rice together and sprinkle on a little curry powder. From there, we add water and let it steam. We finish it to order with peas, chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lemon, a little bit of olive oil, and a soft-boiled egg. And, of course, we drop in the smoked cod at the last minute, so it all doesn’t overcook or fall apart.”

2. Farmers Breakfast

Two eggs, smashed peas, hashed potatoes, pork sausage or bacon | Brunch

“With this, we’re doing a riff on a Ploughman’s lunch or English breakfast. I don’t necessarily always want beans, but I want a vegetable, so it could be sautéed mushrooms or mashed peas, or it could be grilled tomatoes, but that addition [of vegetables] on the plate I think is really welcomed and balances it all out. We’ll always look to add some kind of seasonal vegetable that’s appropriate.

“With this dish, you can have eggs any way you like with hashed potatoes and smashed peas and thick, double-cut bacon, or really juicy pork sausage. It’s a breakfast sausage that we make in-house.”

3. Fried Green Tomatoes

Served with buttermilk vinaigrette | Dinner

“We’re getting green, unripe tomatoes that we cut into large slabs and salt to let them lose a little bit of their water. From there we’re going to toss them into 50% flour and 50% fine cornmeal. Then, we let them sit out and dry for a little bit before we drop them into a fryer. When we take them out, we season them really well.

“We’ll add a spoonful of pickled peppers and pickle juice and toss them in that, so it gets a little bit of a quick marinade and a lot of flavor on top of that. We just put them on a plate and serve them with a little dish of buttermilk vinaigrette. That’s buttermilk with a spoonful of crème fraîche, some chopped soft herbs, a little zesty garlic, and salt and pepper.”

4. Cod Cakes

House-smoked cod, potatoes, onions served with tartar sauce | Dinner

“We get these beautiful cod coins in, and we sear them quickly and smoke them in the kitchen. Then, we shred it a little bit by hand. Some [of the cod], as you know, goes into the kedgeree, but most of it is for cod cakes. Fish cakes are a real staple in these kinds of older menus.

“Ours is done with some soft-boiled potato mixed with chopped celery and chopped red onion. We add a little bit of breadcrumbs in there and we bind them together with an egg. They’re not coated or anything. It’s just a lot of fresh cod, a little potato, and these other elements to season it. Then we drop it off and give it a little crisp top and bottom, served with some tartar sauce. That’s a dish that I feel really works well in the tavern, if you’re just in the tavern drinking or you want to start with something when you’re eating in the dining room. They’re very surprising. They’re surprisingly very good, very delicate, and very full of flavor.”

5. Chops

Country rib pork chops with tomato chutney | Dinner

“[Even though we have] a really seasonal menu, there are things that we’re just always going to have. We always have chops and roasts going on. Right now, we have a beautiful pork chop, porterhouse, and some ribeye steaks now and then. We get the pork chop from Heritage Meats – it’s a double bone, country rib chop, so it’s higher up in the shoulder and it’s got a little bit more marbling and fat, which is my favorite part of meat: bones and fat.

“That pork chop gets roasted, and we serve it with the tomato chutney that we make and some black-eyed peas. Then, it’s just sliced, and it’s really good. It’s a big plate of meat that’s good to share or tackle on your own.”

6. Patty Melt

“We serve this in the tavern after 10 p.m. and we serve it all day at brunch, but basically if you want it, we’re happy to make it for you. We do chopped beef smashed on the griddle, caramelized onions, twice the normal amount of Swiss cheese. We whisk together some Dijon and homemade mayonnaise and add a big spoonful of that.

“The bread goes down buttered and toasted and gets cheese melted on the other side. We serve it cut in half with the dill pickle spear on top. It’s a big favorite for staff meals, too.”


The Commerce Inn is open for dinner Monday through Friday from 5 to 11 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Ellie Plass is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.