There’s no shortage of chic, hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Soho; the narrow streets -- constantly crawling with polished tourists and lower Manhattanites -- are stacked with open-windowed storefronts, and Navy on Sullivan St. is, seemingly, unremarkable. But what sets the 40-seat, seafaring hideaway apart is its personality and minimalist menu. The restaurant’s name speaks to its design: the interior is reminiscent of a World War II naval ship, with studded copper plating and canvas from old US Navy duffle bags lining the walls, blue and white floor tiles and flags, and a wall display of stacked sardine cans.
The season-dependent menu is themed accordingly: it’s straightforward, simplistic American food with fish at the forefront (as you’d expect from a restaurant with a maritime motif), while maintaining its appeal to the Soho masses with its penchant for vegetables. You can have the market salad (vegetables!) with the daily fish -- which can be as simple as tinned smoked salmon (I didn’t say it was fresh). For the seafood-averse, the open-faced egg sandwich with bacon, cheese, and avocado is a one-time staff-meal-turned-menu-item -- a ringing endorsement from the restaurant’s nearest and dearest. It’s served with French fries (potatoes are vegetables!) that are eerily reminiscent of those from McDonald’s, but in the best way: they’re the thin, uniformly cut, crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside fries you didn’t know existed outside of the double arches. They do.
During dinner, the menu opens with raw bar options like oysters, crudos, and house-cured fish topped with caviar, then dives into larger, market dishes like the popular whole trout en croute. Again, you can avoid sea creatures with an all-beef cheeseburger, which can and should be topped with the agave-drizzled Billionaire Bacon. A meal at Navy isn’t complete without a beverage; the wine -- which is secured to the back wall by leather straps in case the ship rocks -- is primarily old world, with lesser known varieties and regions accounted for (like the Grecian Assyrtiko or a Black Vermentino). Beer -- including the local Catskill Pilsner and Ommegang Witte, among other fish-friendly brews -- is poured from unmarked wooden taps. And somewhat antithetical to a ship’s nature, there’s no liquor here: the cocktail program is anchored by light-on-the-palate, crisp, soju- and wine-based aperitifs. For simple, satisfying food and a seaside departure to decades past, Navy is your port of call.