Dear Irish pubs, I really love you. Your beer is good, your cider is delicious, and your fish and chips make me swoon. Your ambiance is just the right amount of dimly-lit-grunge and oaky-flair. I think you’re the best, so please don’t take this the wrong way — beloved Irish pubs, why-oh-why can’t you have anything that actually makes me feel good after leaving your establishment? Must I always waddle away like a stuffed penguin, regretting every decision I ingested?
What’s that you say? There’s an Irish Pub uptown that has feel-good-food, too? Ah yes, how could I forget? Le Chéile.
Where to begin? Le Chéile — pronounced “leh kay-lah,” like your friend Kayla — is an awesome mix of pub and funky restaurant. It’s located on 181st and Cabrini, just a block away from the 181 A train stop in Washington Heights (or as some call it, Hudson Heights — but that’s a whole different debate.
It’s pink. You can’t miss it. According to their menu, Le Chéile is “a Gaelic phrase that has no English language equivalent, but the feeling is universal. Literally it means ‘together.’ We like that.” Me, too.
The restaurant has a few different sections; there’s the bar, and then three separate seating areas, all with distinct moods. Sometimes my roommates and I go upstairs for dinner, pay up, and then head downstairs for another drink at the bar and a round of cards (don’t tell me we sound like grandmas, just don’t do it).
The bar feels separate from the restaurant (something I adore about this place), with different lighting and music from the dining area. On a Tuesday night it feels hip and local, with a scattering of people chatting, and on a Friday night it feels lively and dense, but you still almost always manage to find a seat or the bartender’s eye.
The second level feels like you’re entering into a secret colorful loft, with cool Irish theatre posters on the wall, big windows, and sneaky views of the George Washington Bridge.
Which brings me to the food. Ah, I love this menu. I brought my vegetarian mother here twice on my parents’ short NYC trip because the vegetarian options are so awesome.
The best thing on the menu is the Farmer’s Sides. Get 1 side for $5 or 4 sides for $16 (do the latter, trust me, and make it your main meal) and choose between tons of deliciously-prepped veggies. My favorites are caramelized brussels sprouts (with the option to add bacon), roasted artichoke hearts with parmesan and lemon, roasted beets with pecan or feta, and mashed potatoes with spinach, but I think I’ve tried all of the Farmer’s Sides and never been disappointed.
Just because it’s fantastic for veggies doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome for traditional Irish fare lovers. My other favorite dish is no surprise for an Irish place — fish and chips ($14). I’m super picky about fish and chips, and let me tell you, these ones are good — not too battered, just the right amount of crisp, and tender fish. Their house tartar sauce is on point, too. Other honorable mentions are the chicken pot pie ($14) and the mac & cheese with rock shrimp ($10).
Ok. So it’s a pub. Let’s get to the beer. My top choices are their house Le Chéile red ale and the Smith and Forge cider (on tap, huzzah!). They’re cheap, too — $5-$6. Guys. This is Manhattan., and you can get a good draught beer for $5 in a really cool place. I still can’t believe it.
Brunch is delectable, too. I’d like to start off by mentioning that your first bloody mary or mimosa is $2. I’ll let that sink in for a sec…
Ok, now Brunch is from 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s pretty typical fare: Irish breakfast, eggs of different varieties, French toast. My personal go-to though is the Farmer’s Omelette ($11).
Chance are if you live anywhere near 181st you’ve already heard of Le Chéile. (There isn’t the widest array of restaurants around it, but what the area lacks in quantity, it sure makes up for in quality.) If you haven’t heard of Le Chéile, though, it’s worth a stop after your next Cloisters excursion.
What do you love about Le Chéile? Have other uptown restaurants you love? We’d love to know below in the comments!
Laura is an actor/writer/teacher/hiker/camper who grew up in colorful Colorado drinking chai and yodeling from mountaintops. She traded in the Rocky Mountains for the skyscrapers of NYC, where she now lives with her four-legged mutt. She holds a master’s in Acting from the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University.