This particular stretch of block needed a reliable, sit-down lunch spot, and Communal, the new restaurant on 72nd between Amsterdam and Broadway, will be that.
The lunch and dinner offerings include salads, sandwiches, pastries, amateur empanadas, and a selection of hearty flatbreads, best eaten on site — when warm and crispy. The meal-sized salads, for $9, make pretty satisfying lunches, which is shocking to me, because salads usually just make me hungrier. My favorite is a light toss of mixed greens, black sesame, seeds, edamame, avocado, and a truffle-scented vinaigrette; it shouldn’t work (hey, let’s throw all the trending ingredients into a bowl), but it does. The empanadas are less impressive. If you’re going to make a point of serving an item that off-theme, you have to do it right. The Parmesan and provolone empanada is alarmingly empty, and the crust on all of them is far too chewy and thick.
Communal may, in fact, be overly ambitious in scope, offering strange health indulgences (?) like Chia chocolate pudding and befuddling snacks like their empanadas. But the setting is lovely and the service is even lovelier; the attentive waitstaff is always happy to recommend the day’s best pastries. On one recent visit, my waitress told me, “I’ve been smelling them all day. You have to try the whole wheat pain au chocolat.” I did, and it was delicious, defying pretty much every whole wheat pastry stereotype.
The wine list is comprised of organic, sustainable, and biodynamic wines and a decent selection of mostly local New York beers, as well as their own “Communal” lager, unspectacular but a good buy at $4.
For dinner, exhausted UWS mothers and fathers can order the “Mombie” or the “Zombdy” specials, for 19 and 20 dollars respectively. The Mombie, for “an exhausted mother that feeds on coffee and survives on wine,” includes any salad, glass of wine, and a cup of coffee. The zombdy, “for an overwhelmed Dad that Feeds on Coffee and survives on beer,” comes with any flatbread, a beer, and a cup of coffee. The idea is cute, but the implicit gender norms are irritating: why the mamas gotta be eating salad and wine? Alas.