Having relied on the cedar planked salmon from Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen to make me the hostess with the mostest on many an occasion, I was eager to try the company’s new culinary venture in the village of Rocky Hill.
This desire was almost thwarted when it became apparent that half the known world also wanted to share the adventure of the newest nosh in town. Open only for dinner now, No. One53 had been at capacity for almost every one of the ten days that it had been open when I finally snagged a reservation.
And reservations are a must, at least at this point. My friend and I arrived at the stroke of 6:30 on a Thursday to find the place already jumping. The bar was full and not just of folks posing with trendy drinkies. They were animatedly eating, talking, laughing. This is clearly a place for food
Located where the Washington Street Station had been for many years, the face of the building is surprisingly stark, in contrast to the Victorian exuberance of the rest of the village. The decor is contemporary and warm. The night we were there the mix of patrons ranged from a few children (no infants) to folks of our demographic and beyond. The noise level was comfortable at the beginning but by the time we left at 8, we found we were having to strain to hear each other.
We were seated at a cozy table, close but not uncomfortably close to our neighbors. Our waitress was friendly and gave no hint of not being able to give us all the time in the world to decide not only on drinks but our food. I leapt at the chance of a gimlet with Hendrick’s gin and it was perfectly icy and not too limey (and a bit pricey at $13 but never mind). Wines by the glass ranged from $5 for a simple Italian Pinot Grigio to a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot at $30. Wines by the bottle offered a much better range and are all at or under $53.
We were delighted that the menu is small — six appetizers, four pasta dishes, eight sides, and just eight entrees (plus a burger or cheeseburger). Obviously they are trying to do a few things well. We opted to begin with the mussels in white wine ($9) and the beet salad with goat cheese ($9). The mussels could have easily been a main course. The beet salad had a nutty punch and the goat cheese was lightly crisped. Appetizers range from $7 for a Caesar salad to $9 for the mussels and eggplant rollatini. We saw orders of the polenta fries ($8) with dipping sauces go by, tempting us to expand our order.
Then came my salt and pepper skate wing (an unusual item at any restaurant), three generous portions with a savory mix of fall vegetables ($17). My companion, a grazer from way back, ordered the house cured salmon ($9) and the white bean ragout ($5). We shared everything, often clashing forks in our zeal. Entrees range from $39 for the beef filet to a gigantic burger for $9. Sides offered the comfort of macaroni and cheese, greens, potatoes and meatballs, from $5 to $7. Pasta, especially the winter squash ravioli with sage cream sauce, looked inviting and was priced from $12 to $16. Next time!
There is no doubt that as many tables as possible have been fit into the dining area. But this became apparent only as we were leaving and threading our way out among the double-parked patrons at the bar was tricky. The bar was again filled with happy diners. Yes, this is definitely a place for food.
No. One53 is a date place, although not the venue for quiet romantic talk, the energy is much too high. It is a gathering spot for old friends, to judge from the animated conversations going on across tables. As busy as it was, we were never rushed to turn the table even after we had been there an hour and a half and there was a deuce waiting. There is plenty on the menu for children but this is an adult venue.
Just as a word of warning, parking is at a premium so be prepared to execute three point turns out of the small, long lot or better yet, assume it’s full and just go for a space on one of the side streets.
Rocky Hill now has the go-to spot. And there’s a killer table in the wide front window alcove that just may become a prime piece of dining real estate.
No. One53, 153 Washington Street, Rocky Hill. 609-924-1019. Open now for dinner only, Monday through Sunday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations recommended.