The newest addition to the Eil Zabar's empire is Eli's Essentials on the tony UES, perfect for the moneyed crowd that lives in this zip. By day it's a place to pick up ready-made dishes like pastas and salads as well as cookies named for the private schools in the area (Spence anyone?) and decorated with their logos. There are plenty of Eli's utterly delicious and pricy breads, either as loaves as well as sandwiches --meatloaf in an onion pocket, salami and cheese, and egg salad.
There are seats downstairs and more up accessed via a gorgeous wrought iron staircase. Upstairs sports a painted tin ceiling tinged with gray and ochre walls with a stenciled design by artist Steve Keene that doesn't quite jibe with the rest of the decor. In the evenings, the place still sells take-out goodies but also becomes what is termed a "wine bar" serving small plates that share well. As to the wine, it's incredibly expensive (Eli is a noted oenophile) with glasses running to $16 each (some are a modest $12) and high end bottles although you can find a few less expensive selections.
Eli has always gotten food right and offerings here are no exception. The shoestring fried zucchini is light and greaseless to the point where I found myself practically stuffing the entire plateful into my mouth. Baby artichokes are sautéed into morsels of deliciousness. Many items come parked on a toast or bread like the lamb sliders, two to an order, each on a cumin -scented roll. The lamb is a little dry but the total effect is good. The menu here is seasonal so what's available now may not be in months to come.
Shrimp come with chorizo, on thick , delicious toast slices. The tagliatelle isn't a great share dish but fine as a personal entre although it's less successful than other items. Halibut "tostadas" come perched on something resembling a cracker but, Eli being Eii, more likely it's a house-made bread item. There are plenty of excellent cheese and cured meats.
Staff is friendly although I'm not sure how true this for all visitors as I was with friends who've frequented the place since it opened and were warmly embraced.
Eli's Essentials is a spot for folks who don't care what it costs and are happy to fork over $1 for a single banana. Portions are on the small side and those little plates mount up . On the plus side, food is a full yum . Eli knows his neighborhood and continues to develop spots that have the right appeal for where they're located.