real estate

Scouting Locations for New York’s Next Great Grungy Restaurant

There's something about urban blight that puts us in the mood for uni.

There's something about urban blight that puts us in the mood for uni.Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York has a long history of putting some of its greatest eateries in unusual and unappealing places — and we don't just mean Murray Hill or the basement of Grand Central. And now the man has declared both Roberta's, in a cinder-block garage in Bushwick, and M. Wells, closing soon, but nevertheless housed in an old rundown diner, to be two of the city's premiere eateries. So we wondered: What will be the next unlikely spot to sprout a fantastic New York restaurant? The requirements for the space seem obvious: The place should have cheap rent, and sport some industrial/urban appeal as well as an interesting history or backstory. It needs to be dodgy, sinister — the kind of place where crime scenes can feasibly happen and runaways are sometimes found. (A place for a rooftop and/or backyard garden would be lovely, too.) So! We dug through the city's commercial real estate listings to find eight available, totally viable locations for New York's next hot restaurant. Consider it a public service for the greater good. All a young chef has to do is sign on the line that is dotted, move in a few electric burners and stools, and get cookin'. You're welcome, New York.

The space: A fully furnished bodega space on East 118th Street
bodegaThe appeal: The beverage coolers and deli counter all say "casual," but a chef could easily convert the space into an upscale taco joint. And wouldn't it just be so awesome to fill those coolers with artisanal sodas and juices? Could convert any available storage space into a private dining room for reservation-only prix fixe dinners.

The space: A former drugstore in the Bronx
The appeal: Now that the mainstream media has discovered Queens as a dining destination, the Bronx is in need of some MSM love. Turning the former DJ Drugs space into a casual, small-plates-focused restaurant is the way to do it. Bonus: You'll probably find some old medical tweezers and syringes, which will come in handy for plating.

The space: An old garage in Ridgewood
garageThe appeal: All an owner would have to do is swing open the garage door, and they've got the makings of New York's next great barbecue restaurant. The adjacent empty lot would be a great space for an upscale beer hall or urban garden. And Ridgewood still sounds like the kind of place where you risk being non-fatally shot while you're getting fed.

The space: A 400-square-foot studio apartment in Harlem
The appeal: A restaurant here would be the ultimate in exclusivity, since it would be unlicensed and completely illegal. An enterprising chef could convert the space and host $75 tasting-menu-only dinners for just one person each night ($125 with beer and wine pairings). The shared bathroom will be a killer detail that every reviewer includes in his or her write-up.

The space: "Gated Industrial Land" in Canarsie
The appeal: A great space for a restaurant specializing in whole-animal butchery and cooking. Call it "Carne." Our advice to an enterprising restaurateur would be to keep the gate and the barbwire up at all times, and install a secret entrance around the corner. If you can convince people to trek all the way out here for roast pork, you can certainly trust that they'll walk around back to find the door.

The space: An old Pfizer plant near Clinton Hill
The appeal: It's a 600,000-square-foot space in Brooklyn, so it's pretty obvious that this has real potential to be the Eataly-like food megaemporium that tourists won't want to go to. R&D kitchen spaces are preinstalled; you'll just want to make sure to scrub off any research residue that might be on the equipment. Bonus: You might find a Rotovap or immersion circulator left over from previous tenants.

The space: The M. Wells diner!
M. WellsThe appeal: We already know Queens's restaurant of the moment is moving out at the end of the month, which means this seriously prime restaurant real estate will be available soon. Yes, you may have some problems with the landlord and a mysterious, ass-tapping ghost, but the space's charming patina will remain intact, and plenty of Manhattanites have become comfortable with the idea of taking the 7 train to something other than a Mets game.

The space: A used 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan
The appeal: The food-truck trend may be on the wane, but a full-service restaurant housed in a stationary van might just be the next big thing. Plus, we all know diners love to do it in restaurants these days, and is there anything better suited for amorous activities than a sweet goddamn van? Any spot that opens in this van has the potential to be the country's first restaurant specializing in farm-to-fucking cuisine.

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