by Alex R. Travers
Run by charming Aussies Nick Hatsatouris and Lincoln Pilcher, Gilligan’s is attached to the revered (by me, especially) Soho Grand Hotel, which came to fruition about 17 years ago in downtown New York with an idea: move into a glamorous area filled with art galleries, restaurants, and luxury shops, and prosper with the success of the neighborhood.
When you walk into the Gilligan’s, which occupies the hotel’s partially covered outdoor space, it’s easy to forget that you are in New York City. The décor is consummate Hampton beach house: weathered buoys hang from bamboo walls; wooden water skis rest on whitewashed benches topped with cushy pillows; pineapples, watermelons, and unripe bananas garnish the bars. Kindly avoiding the reggae-music trope, a well-curated playlist of classics and new wave songs travel through the speakers. Chef Gary King, whose résumé includes Il Buco, Kingswood, and Moby Dicks, crafts the menu.
On Wednesday afternoon I stopped by to sample the dishes. The two starters were appealing. The first was a Tuscan kale salad with Caesar dressing, covered with thin parmesan strands and crunchy bread crumbs—a modern take on the Caesar salad. The second was roasted beets, delightfully fresh and paired with a light horseradish crème and arugula.
Gilligan’s offers pizza two ways, a simple margherita with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil, and the better pizza coppa with cured pork. The coppa was nicely smoked but still had a smooth texture. The crusts were a little crunchy, but both thin-crust pizzas don’t stray too far from tradition.
The seafood dish, a grilled sea bass, was beautifully prepared. Served whole, it arrived nicely crosshatched, moist and soft under the crispy skin. It was topped with asparagus. Provided you don’t mind removing the bones, this was King’s best dish at Gilligan’s.
A roasted chicken was preternaturally juicy but lacked flavor. It was served on a pile of shishito peppers that everyone at my table enjoyed nibbling on. Along with the chicken came a wagyu skirt steak, marinated in a chimichurri sauce and topped with delicious spring onions. The meat was expertly cooked but slightly over seasoned.
My recommendation is to come here during the week, an hour or so before sunset. After 4 p.m., Gilligan’s is filled with people from the neighborhood, extremely good-looking ones, who look happy sipping on refreshing drinks. The cocktail program is clever and offers a touch of quirkiness in concoctions such as the “Leaving Tijuana” and the “Pisco Shrubb.”
Pilcher describes Gilligan’s best: “It’s a spot where you come with six people, sit down, order one of everything, and share.”
Gilligan’s will open June 1st and remain open through September; open daily from 4 p.m. – late; brunch 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays only; walk-in