Trading Post Transforms Seaport Spot into Glamorous Locale

| 16 Feb 2015 | 10:54

Trading Post offers traditional American food with a twist As I approached 170 John St. the other night, I thought perhaps my memory had failed me. This couldn't possibly be the same space that housed the stale-ale smelling Yankee Clipper just two years ago, where people came to bet on horses before OTB got canned. The outside looked glamorous, like something you'd find in Midtown East or Tribeca. The main dining room at Trading Post is full of special nooks, sections, and private booths, while the second floor is set up like an Old English library, offering a partial view of the river from its beige leather couches and chairs, all imported from Ireland. Everything from the black-and-white patterned napkins to the lacquered tables and black walls scream elegant, not stuffy. The restaurant's owners, Richard Sheridan, John Higgins, and Sammy O'Connor, are right when they say there's nothing like this in the neighborhood. Sure, similar haunts are common around Wall Street and on Lower Manhattan's West Side, but O'Connor says that most Seaport-area residents, himself and Sheridan included, don't really have a favorite "regular place" downtown. Opening up a restaurant post-Sandy and pre-Pier 17 renovation is risky; in fact, some people might say it's downright crazy -- especially when you've got a staff of 70 on payroll -- but they'd already bought the space in March of 2012, and now they're making the best of it. "We had signed a 15-year lease, and a good one. I knew Pier 17 would be demolished but that the city would push to make the neighborhood special," said O'Connor. "Sure, we opened during the worst season, but when you're paying rent every day, you have to get the place going." Here's what they have to offer: The cocktails are hard, and they're definitely Irish (lots of whiskey-based drinks). Trading Post serves brunch, lunch, dinner and bar menus, so variety isn't in short supply. The menu is American traditional with a twist. The razor clams, for example, are almost a salad of corn, bacon, clams, hearty, and moist, served in four long, thin shells. The dinner menu is seafood-heavy but still offers something for everyone: pork belly sliders, a tomahawk chop for two, a 36-ounce bone-in-rib-eye served with chipotle béarnaise and a loaded baked potato, cornmeal crusted skate with pineapple and rocket salad, and asparagus risotto with poached hen's egg and aged parmesan cheese. As for sides, zucchini is served up in thick chunks and heavily marinated with sesame seeds, while the French Fries, almost sinfully perfect, come with both ketchup and curry mayo. For brunch, try the baked egg and chorizo flatbread or lemon ricotta shortstack served with caramelized bananas. Wash it down with a peanut butter and chocolate chip shake. The master chef, Stephen Woods, 38, who has also worked for Smith and Wollensky, the Patina Restaurant Group, and Cucina and Co., has one rule: keep it simple. "You have to be able to easily identify all of the ingredients, so there's never more than three or four in each dish, with a few exceptions," he said. "Otherwise, things get lost." It's a refreshing philosophy, especially when combining ingredients that have never been paired together before seems to be many restaurants' new strategy. ( Sheridan, O'Connor, and Higgins are hoping to take advantage of the weather and get approval from the building's board for outdoor seating. As of now, they are waiting with fingers crossed and hoping the crowds come in to cool off. "I know we'll be fine when they demolish the Seaport. We have 88 Pine nearby, along with other giant office buildings that aren't going anywhere," Sheridan said. Since the spot seems a little ahead of its time in the struggling Seaport area, it's a relief to know that they're willing to stick it out for the long haul. "We'll definitely be here for 15 years," O'Connor said.