By Terry Trucco
Many are called – and last week we were among them, taking a seat in the gigantic two-room juror’s bullpen at 60 Centre Street.
Jury duty isn’t as onerous as it once was. The officers explaining the rules deliver good patter. The free WiFi is strong. Even the $1.50 coffee at the courthouse cart has improved. Better still, once you’ve served, you won’t be called back for six years.
But New York’s courthouses are still big, brute, soul-deadening places (the wait to get through security was 25 minutes on a Monday morning). Come lunchtime, we wanted out.
Two hotels with inviting restaurants are within walking distance, provided you score an elongated lunch break (think twice you’re if assigned the standard 1-to-2-p.m. window).
Plein Sud at Smyth Tribeca 85 West Broadway at Chambers Street; 212 587-7000.
Dining room A grand scale visual escape from the gloomy halls of justice. Light pours in through big windows. The Country-French-meets-Tribeca-loft-inspired decor extends to leather-and-linen banquettes perched on fetching wood legs. Blue-and-white toile paper rings band the dishtowel napkin. You can eat at the zinc bar, tall tables in the window or the dining room, as we did.
Food Stylized French bistro (Croque Monsieur, onion soup) meets contemporary New York bistro (chopped salad, burger with black truffle aioli and frites). Our carefully composed Nicoise salad ($18) featured bibb lettuce, shredded albacore tuna and – yes! — skinless cherry tomatoes that tasted like candy. Light, bright and tasty, it set us up nicely for the afternoon session.
Company Hotel guests, locals and business people. The cute couple that looked like off-duty Swedish fashion models left after learning brunch wasn’t available on weekdays.
Service We were out in well under an hour. The fastest approach if you’re alone is to sit at the bar.
Distance from Courthouse The hotel is next to the Chambers Street subway stop, the closest on west side stop for most of the courthouses. It’s a five-to-fifteen-minute walk depending on how fast you move, how much pedestrian traffic you encounter (there’s lots at lunchtime), how you hit the traffic lights and which courthouse your assigned to (it’s closest to 60 Centre).
Escape factor Four gavels (out of four gavels).
The Lounge at the Tribeca Grand 2 Avenue of the Americas; 212 519-6600.
Dining room Choose between a comfy-sleek lounge with leather sofas and coffee tables and banquettes with dining tables and sleek leather-backed chairs. In this pie-shaped atrium, the ceiling is way up. Décor is standard Tribeca cool with mid-century-mod inflections, notably the triangular-backed dining chairs. Photos of fashion models stare down at you from above the banquettes.
Food Classic boutique hotel bistro offerings (chicken paillard, tagliatelle pasta with tomato and basil, lobster sliders). Our plump tuna burger on a brioche bun with wasabi mayo and salad ($16) was delicious and offered the sustenance we needed for another round of law and order.
Company Guests, business people and locals. A woman showed off her baby to the hosts. A job interview took place at a table near ours. In the lounge area, several guests with Apple laptops sipped drinks.
Service Laid back. Be sure to tell them you’re in jury duty to speed things up.
Distance from Courthouse A stretch from 60 or 80 Centre, less so from 100 or 111 Centre, where the Grand is a four-to-five-block walk. Despite its official address, the hotel is on a V-shaped peninsula below Canal Street where Church and White streets intersect.
Escape factor Four gavels.