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Prune

photo by Nicole Franzen

The only thing shriveled about Prune is its seating capacity, which can make getting a table a challenge, especially at brunch. Chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton conceived the joint as a place where she could cook uptown food for her downtown neighbors, and that’s precisely what she continues to do. The simple-ingredient, straightforward-preparation route is hard traveled by now, but Hamilton followed the course early. Order a bottle of white and a passel of small plates — doubly decadent fried sweetbreads with bacon, octopus with shaved fennel, roasted marrow bones — and then press on with a fresh bottle and an entrée. (Spatchcocked pigeon! And, what the hell, a salad.) In 2011, when she had a memoir on the bestseller list and a newly minted James Beard Award for New York City’s Best Chef, the Voice asked Hamilton which was harder, writing a book or running a restaurant. She said the book. More recently, she put that answer in a more illuminating perspective for us. How, we asked, do you fit in your neighborhood? “I am the neighborhood,” she replied. “Both what’s good and what’s bad, what’s changed and what’s remained true. I’ve lived on this block for 24 years, in this neighborhood for 29, and I’ve been in my industry for as long, through all of its trends. Prune is only 15 now, but hopefully we will live to become one of the East Village’s institutions, like Russ & Daughters and Katz’s.” Amen, and please find room for us on Saturday morning.