It was the end of a fun week in Manhattan, and that I was suffering from the exhaustion that comes from the city’s excesses: the lights, the noise, the crowds, the drinks, and waiting for the trendiest seat. restaurants—often with results that fail to live up to the hype. With this tired, my husband and that I ventured into Colors in the NoHo neighborhood for Sunday lunch. John Mellencamp accompanies BB King on the soundtrack, and quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt and Cesar Chavez are handwritten in chalk on a board high above the dining room. We instantly wondered about the story behind this place.
The hostess quickly seated us and we felt snug in the snug, dimly lit and somewhat quirky dining area with low backed stools. Subtle strands of tiny coloured lamps add soft adornment to an otherwise casual space, with its high ceilings and exposed pipes.
Upon placing our order, we observed a subtle homage to the civil rights movement and workers’ rights amongst the decorations. As our server placed complimentary fruit, yogurt, and homemade pickles on our table, we questioned her and learned that Colors is a not-for-profit restaurant owned by Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, a company dedicated to living better and living wages. working conditions for American restaurant workers. The server proudly told us she was trained at Colors, which offers free classes to help restaurant service workers advance their careers.
Food arrived. Mine, a mouth-watering, juicy bone-in chicken breast with a perfect crust, accompanied by three rich, buttery, dense biscuits with a crunchy top, gave me immediate confidence that I made the right choice. My husband’s generous portion of smoked salmon set superbly next to a warm golden brown potato pancake with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with chives on the side. The salmon slices are finely cut—thick and firm, with just the right balance of salt, smoke, and sweet, and perfectly complement the crispy outside of the potato pancake and the soft, fluffy inside. The house made pickled chips are barely sweet and fresh, with just the correct amount of bite. As they say in the South, we “slip”. As we breathed in the fresh air, we felt strong enough to share dessert – the salted caramel pot de crème. Perhaps our tolerance for excess has returned.
We left grateful for the quality of the food, but also with appreciation for the mission of the restaurant and the plight of the service workers who are regularly paid as little as $2.13 an hour and are expected to depend on inconsistent tips which are often not enough. to enable these workers to escape poverty. The next time we find ourselves in New York with a need to escape the pretense, we’ll return to Colors, where we arrive tired and hungry, and leave motivated and nourished.
NYC Restaurant Colors, www.colorsrestaurantnyc.com417 Lafayette Street,
New York, NY, 10003, (212) 777-8443