The LES's Tiny Fork is Now a Southern Restaurant Called The Derby: Here's Why

All photos by Billy Lyons
Biscuits from scratch with maple jalapeno butter and jam
When months-old seafood-centric corner spot Tiny Fork closed up shop, veteran restaurateur Rob Shamlian didn't give up the lease. Instead, he retooled the address into The Derby (167 Orchard Street, 212-777-8469), a Southern concept inspired by a range of that region's fare, from South Carolina's low-country cuisine to Cajun flavors of Louisiana. "We're not trying to be a Cajun or a barbecue place," says chef Jeff Kreisel. "We're trying to take ideas from all different states, all different cuisines from the south, not just one specific place."

To wit, the menu is loaded with salads made with ingredients like white peaches, candied pecans, and pancetta; a patty melt with pimento cheese; cornmeal-crusted fried chicken livers; brisket tacos; and, of course, biscuits from scratch. Despite the regional homage, though, the kitchen places emphasis on sourcing local and organic products whenever possible, and it's lightened up traditional dishes considerably.

"Southern food doesn't have to be don't have to take a nap after you eat at The Derby," says Kreisel. But you should pair your meal to a whiskey-based cocktail; the bar deals mint juleps -- what else would be appropriate for a restaurant named after a famous julep-fueled horse race? -- and other classic cocktails like the gold rush and boulevardier. The Derby is still awaiting its liquor license for its downstairs bar, which will eventually serve as a cocktail lounge.

We caught up with Shamlian, who is also a proprietor of LES beer bar Spitzer's Corner . On the next page, the owner tells us about why he closed Tiny Fork -- and why The Derby is a better fit for the neighborhood.

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