Eel Bar entrance
Eel Bar recently opened not far from Cervo’s on the Lower East Side. Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar

The RundownNew York

Everything You Need to Know About Eel Bar, From the Cervo’s Team 


“It feels like we opened three restaurants in the pandemic, because we had to reopen everything and add the outdoors,” says Nialls Fallon, a co-owner of Cervo’s, Hart’s, and The Fly. Eel Bar, however, which opened its doors on June 20 on a busy stretch of Broome Street in Manhattan, is the team’s first official opening since their rotisserie chicken destination The Fly debuted five years ago.

“We think of our restaurants as New York restaurants, first and foremost,” says Fallon, who co-owns the new project with restaurateur Leah Campbell, chef Nick Perkins, director of operations Taylor Ward, and chef Aaron Crowder. But, like their Iberian coastal spot Cervo’s, Eel Bar takes its inspiration from across the Atlantic — in this case, Basque Country, where Spain and France meet near the Bay of Biscay.

We caught up with Fallon just after the opening to learn more about the narrow double railed perch where diners can prop up tiny plates of gildas, why the team is doubling down on the Lower East Side, and whether Eel Bar’s namesake ingredient will ever end up on the menu.

The Resy Rundown
Eel Bar

  • Why We Like It
    It’s the Basque sibling to beloved favorites Cervo’s, Hart’s, and The Fly, which are run by a restaurant team we’d follow pretty much anywhere. There’s no eel on the menu, but you will find gildas, rainbow trout pil pil, baked oysters, and black rice a la plancha. Don’t skip one of their vermouth-forward cocktails, either.
  • Essential Dishes
    Gildas — both classic and tuna renditions. Follow them up with the potato salad with trout roe, white asparagus with bottarga, chicken and pork meatballs with fries, and the grass-fed burger with anchovies and Roquefort.
  • Must-Order Drinks
    Any of the vermouth cocktails, including the Marianito made with Atxa red vermouth, Agricole rum, Curaçao, bitters, and an olive. For wine, try the Fiorella from Ruben Diaz.
  • Who and What It’s For
    Anyone who loves Cervo’s but has always wondered what the chef might prepare if they had more meat in the walk-in — and those seeking a bit more space; Eel Bar is nearly twice as wide, so you’re less likely to be sitting on top of another party. 
  • How to Get In
    Both bars — a seated one with 13 spots and a standing two-tiered rail — are held for walk-ins. And, for the moment, so are about half of the seats in the restaurant. The team also takes reservations for dinner nightly.

1. Bring on the Basque Country.

While Cervo’s leans into the coasts of Portugal and Spain, Eel Bar “is geographically moving further north into more mountainous areas, but it’s still close to the coast — we creatively wanted to be able to explore a little further afield,” Fallon explains. “It’s an area we’ve always been interested in.”

Last April, a “big handful” of people from the team went to the region, making five stops: On the Spanish side of the border — San Sebastián, another stop outside of Bilbao where one of the canneries of their tinned fish company Minnow is located, and to Rioja to visit some winemakers they work with. On the French side, they stopped in the coastal towns of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz.

One of the ideas the team returned with was a two-tiered, narrow bar where guests can stand while having a snack and a drink across from the seated bar. “We wanted to be able to have that energy in the front of the restaurant. Plus, the ability for people to stop in and not feel like they had to have a whole meal. They could just order a couple snacks like some croquettes and gildas and have a cocktail,” Fallon says.

Eel Bar details
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar
Eel Bar details
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar

2. They’re sticking close to Cervo’s — literally.

The idea for this project has been simmering amongst the team for a while, but they needed to find the right location. “For us, spaces really help clarify the concept and the design, and what kind of menu we can serve,” says Fallon. From the start, they were looking on the Lower East Side and settled on a space just three blocks north of Cervo’s. “We’ve always kind of had these two [bases] — this is my neighborhood where I live, and then over by Hart’s and The Fly is where Nick and Leah live. We’ve always kind of known that we wanted to grow in our two communities.”

Being near Cervo’s also means the management team — including Crowder, who is the chef, and general manager Kaitlyn Ebert — can split their time between the two places, like the chef and general manager do at the team’s Brooklyn restaurants. It also made the opening smoother than others for the group. “Buildouts are always hard — that doesn’t change. But the opening of the restaurant with this team was — for us as a company — so great,” Fallon explains.

Eel Bar booth
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar
Eel Bar booth
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar

3. The menu sports both surf and turf.

While nearly every dish at Cervo’s features seafood in one form or another, Eel Bar’s menu balances the land and the sea. Much of it is directly inspired by classics, but the dishes aren’t exact replicas, Crowder explains. Case in point: a potato salad topped with cured trout roe, which he describes as a stripped-down version of ensalada rusa.

In addition to both classic and tuna gildas leading off the menu, there are fried mussels on the half shell, and preserved white asparagus with housemade mayonnaise and shaved bottarga. Fallon describes the asparagus as a menu anchor, as are the meatballs with fries, and the burger.

The meatballs are a blend of chicken and pork, Crowder notes, “as well as tons of onions cooked until they are sweet and translucent. We season them with paprika and then they are roasted and then rested in a light tomato sauce made from wine and tomato paste. We keep the whole thing light, so the fries can soak it all up.” And, in a first for the group, Eel Bar’s burger isn’t their signature lamb patty that’s on the menu at Cervo’s and Hart’s, but a grass-fed beef one, which gets an umami boost from anchovies and Roquefort.

For dessert, there’s a single option: tarta San Marcos, a Spanish layer cake with chocolate and brûléed custard with layers that are soaked in Atamán vermouth. It’s “boozy and rich,” Crowder adds.

Eel Bar details
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar
Eel Bar details
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar

4. Prepare for plenty of vermouth — and natural wines.

The drinks list, overseen by Fallon, starts with “prepared vermouths” — vermouth-based cocktails given a stronger backbone like the Marianito. It’s made with “red vermouth, and Agricole rum, so it has this tropical expression,” Fallon describes. It also has “Curaçao, so there’s a lot of orange in there — served with an olive, so it’s kind of nice and briny, too.”

There are also house takes on classics like a gin tonic with BCN gin from Barcelona, a bloody Mary with paprika and Basque pepper, and a Picon punch, made with Armagnac, sparkling wine, and pomegranate instead of the more traditional grenadine.

Meanwhile, Ward’s wine list dives into Basque Country, but also stretches geographically to Conca de Barberà outside of Barcelona and Provence in France, and keeps things natural minded with options like Fiorella from Ruben Diaz. “It’s a white wine made from Chasselas — not a grape I quickly associate with Spain — and is aged under a veil of flor,” notes Ward. “It nods both to Andalusian sherry production and northern France through the varietal. This meeting in the middle is particularly exciting to me and very emblematic of Eel Bar’s list.”

Eel Bar details
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar
Eel Bar tables
Photo by Michael Everett, courtesy of Eel Bar

5. No, there’s no eel on the menu — for now.

The name Eel Bar, which was Ward’s idea, wasn’t finalized until a couple of weeks before opening. As for the other contenders? “I’m not sharing any of them,” Fallon says, laughing. The team was looking for something memorable that felt like New York and evoked the idea of a fun, bustling space. Plus, as a bonus, eels “are kind of mysterious, they move between saltwater and freshwater, and ocean and mountain streams. And so for us, that was similar to the region that we were inspired by. So, it just kind of seemed like a fit,” he adds.

So, for the moment, there’s no eel on the menu — but that could change. Says Fallon: “We’ve been talking about it.”

Eel Bar is open nightly for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays, and plans to open seven days a week shortly.

Devra Ferst is a Brooklyn-based food and travel writer who has contributed to The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Eater, NPR, and numerous other publications. She is the co-author of “The Jewish Holiday Table: A World of Recipes, Traditions & Stories to Celebrate All Year Long.” Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.