Wisconsin has been rising in my estimation lately. Who would think these nice, seemingly placid Midwesterners would be so feisty, taking to the streets in impassioned droves, standing up to the man? A restaurateur named Gabriel Stulman is another brave Wisconsinite, opening up three superior little restaurants in quick succession in the West Village, soldiering through a fire (at Joseph Leonard), quickly revamping another (Jeffrey's) when its grocery concept wasn't working, and gutting an ancient treasure, Fedora, without making anybody mad. Indeed, Madison-size crowds have been clamoring to get into Fedora ever since it reopened in January. The space is sleek and arty, looking nothing like its lovable but dowdy former self. At last, a successful facelift! Whereas the old Fedora was Italian, Stulman's version is American-Canadian. He hired a chef, Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly, from Montreal's Au Pied de Cochon, who does not play it safe. That means there's not necessarily something for everybody here. Sorry, vegetarians, or people freaked out by tripe and tongue. Luscious cauliflower soup ($9) is beefed up with bacon and egg yolk. Crispy pig's head croquettes ($12) are un-apologetically rich. And he dares to have both Spanish mackerel ($12) and sardines ($10) on the brief menu. But Stulman and his chef aren't stupid. There's also great fried chicken ($23) and a healthy fish of the day (market price). The cocktails ($12) are smart, too. For all his boldness, Stulman doesn't seem to have forgotten where he came from. He hired a staff who are friendly and unstuffy, which makes dealing with the crowds a lot more bearable.
 
Fedora
239 W. 4th St.,
(646) 449-9336