First Taste: West Branch

West Branch

While most celebrity chefs wrote New York’s Upper West Side off as a hostile culinary wilderness, Tom Valenti strode in and claimed it as his own. He made Ouest into a destination dining spot, and now he’s opened the larger, homier, and more affordable West Branch, which has been absolutely packed since it opened last week.

This is the epitome of a neighborhood place, and Valenti has done his best to make it look as if it’s been here forever. Up in the front people sit watching the television that hangs over the bar as they sip their drinks. In the cavernous dining room they snuggle into capacious booths, enjoying the extremely likeable menu, which offers a hit parade of American restaurant favorites. There is a fine Caesar Salad, big hamburgers, shrimp cocktail, roast chicken, pasta with various kinds of toppings, and a few well-stuffed sandwiches. The wine list is affordable, and as I was walking out the door the people in front of me were already making plans to return the following night. It’s that kind of place.

West Branch 2178 Broadway, New York City (212 777-6764)

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