Ever wonder where to get your gumbo fix in Manhattan? We found the answer: Filé Gumbo Bar. The freshly debuted restaurant, brainchild of Chef Eric McCree, is a unique concept offering an “educational feast of the subtleties of Cajun and Creole food.” They opened 4 weeks ago and are taking the neighborhood by storm!
We stopped by on a rainy Wednesday evening, seizing the perfect opportunity to enjoy some warm gumbo, to check out their operation and sample some of their offerings. The bar-style restaurant harnesses a steam kettle cooking system, and is operated by two chefs who each take charge of four gumbo kettles. Currently since they’re brand new, Chef Eric operates all eight – which they’ve had going at once despite their novelty. Named after the essential ingredient that thickens gumbo, Filé (french, pronounced fee-lay) is made out of dried and ground sassafras leaves and was introduced to the Cajuns by the Choctaw Indians. Chef Eric was inspired by Cajun and Creole food on a trip to Louisiana – the rich history of the cuisine and the patient process required to capture the flavors.
Their menu, which features fresh seasonal catch from the Gulf of Mexico delivered 3x weekly, derives its base from those techniques. It contains a mix of traditional dishes like the gumbo, and new creations like the grilled oysters. The restaurant’s setup features a Chef’s Table for half the seating, where the gumbo kettles sit in front of. Guests can grab a spot here to see how the chefs make the gumbo: with all proteins, spices, and sauces going in to create the beautiful medley so many hold close to their hearts.
We started our meal with an Appleraq and a Filé Southern Sour, two delicious booze-forward cocktails that paired nicely with the meal. Our first appetizer was the Char-Grilled Oysters, served with thinly sliced toasted baguettes and dressed with garlic herb butter and breadcrumb. We put them on the slices and squeezed some of the charred lemon on top, which created a light citrusy-seafood flavor that was kept grounded by the bread and spices. The next appetizer we tried was the Iconic Jazz-Fest Crawfish Bread. This is their spin on garlic bread, just packed with Cajun cheese and crawfish layered on fluffy french bread and baked until the flavors infused. We loved this filling appetizer and the combination of cuisines!
Next we tried their Grilled Creole Caesar Salad as recommended by the Chef. Their take is a “warm, smoky spin” on the classic salad, served with whole romaine hearts and a Creole mustard caesar dressing. This tasted exactly like it sounds – delicious creamy caesar salad enhanced by the spicy flavors of Creole food, which perfectly complemented the rest of our meal.
Now the gumbo, of course, was the star of the show. Eric talked us through their approach and where Filé’s style fits within the Gumbo world. “There’s no one right way to do it”, he told us, as he artfully put together a bowl with pinches of ingredients, eyeballing everything. We had Tiny’s Gumbo with andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, and crawfish. Medium spice. The flavors work together wonderfully, each ingredient getting the space it deserves. The sauce is twice reduced, first with chicken stock then finished with a white wine.
We finished off with their signature Chocolate Praline Cake – do not skip this! This rich chocolate cake with candied pecans, fresh whipped cream, caramel, and hints of liqueur will end your night the right way. Take some home if you need to; this keeps well in the fridge.
Overall, we loved our meal at Filé Gumbo Bar and can’t wait to come back! Reserve your spot here or stop by the restaurant at 275 Church St to sit at the Chef’s Table and watch the gumbo magic unfold.