How to describe The Collective. It’s sorta like grandma’s house went down the rabbit hole…
Pillars are draped in faux bling, bound in cable ties to look like a bristle brush or covered in a knotted weave of those skinny, noodley balloons (called twisting balloons) used to make balloon animals.
Tables have been inlaid with incomplete Scrabble tile sets purchased on eBay; street signs, bath tubs and even a classic “Walk/Don’t Walk” sign (which makes for a particularly warming seat) are now chairs.
The light fixtures are striking, particularly the prescription pill bottle chandelier with its surprisingly delicate orange glow and the giant sculptural ceiling light made of styrofoam. It just goes on and on…
Bottom line: Thanks to the craftsmanship of some crazy, brilliant, out-there, what’s old is new again and hardly anything is what it seems. Everything in the restaurant is reclaimed or redone somehow, or used in an unexpected way.
Even the truffled deviled eggs came out lined up in an overturned egg carton, and the chicken-n-waffles ($12) — a table favorite — came out in a hot cast-iron skillet, presumably the one that had something to do with how the dish was cooked.
But then, everything else was presented on … white plates. Rectangular white plates, oblong white plates, white bowls, all uniform white, white, white.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if all the plates, glasses and flatware were mismatched, too?” our table mused. “They could be sourced from flea markets or … bought up at auctions from restaurants or wholesalers in incomplete sets. Something…”
Really, so insignificant. But we just loved the decor so much we wanted it to go all the way, down to the level of detail where that aesthetic would still be there even when we finally pulled our eyes away to look down at our food.
Oh yeah, the food! Lands solidly in the “grub” category. There are more ladylike dishes on the menu, but the best of what I sampled was the hands-on finger foods.
So whether it’s Hong Kong ribs ($20) at 10 p.m., a late-night dessert of the (darling) housemade fudgesicles on a stick ($8), or a 4 a.m. order of disco fries ($12) to sop up the booze, just get messy.
The Collective, 1 Little W. 12th St., at 9th Ave., 212-255-9717. More information can be found here.