In the increasingly competitive coffee-shop market, savvy independents keep searching for ways to trounce the Seattle Goliath. Some turn to rock-star baristas, others to the sanctity of their politically correct, sustainably grown beans. Roasting Plant, which opened last week on the Lower East Side, relies on new technology and Wonka-esque spectacle.
L.A. Weekly’s Jonathan Gold is the first food writer to win a Pulitzer Prize in criticism. (Links to some of his recent reviews included.) [L.A. Weekly]
Work is going on at Montrachet, and owner Drew Nieporent is seen in public with brilliant unemployed chef Paul Liebrandt, lending some possible credence to the rumored Liebrandt-helmed relaunch of the place. [Eater]
Yeah, there’s some good food to be had in London, but the city’s still not there yet. [NYT]
Related: Has the Food Over There Really Become Edible? [NYM]
Alias Restaurant was left in a state of confusion last month when its respected chef Shane Coffey turned in his apron, but all is now well. The place has hired Mark Barrett, previously of Bread Tribeca, to helm the kitchen. Barrett’s most recent job was a consulting gig with the newly hatched American Diner on Mulberry Street; once installed in Alias, he will add his own twist to the sort of contemporary American bistro food for which his predecessor was known. The new menu should emerge at the end of May or beginning of June.
The Food & Wine Best New Chef parties were pretty good — especially the after-party at the Spotted Pig. We wonder who that unnamed chef doing shots all night could possibly be. Are his initials M.B.? [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Joe Jr.’s coffee shop is becoming a cult favorite among well-heeled Manhattanites – one even rented it out for a party and put up a disco ball. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Top Chef runner-up Sam Talbot to open an already trendy eatery on the Lower East Side, but his liquor-license papers seem not to be in order yet. [Eater]
Will a splashy new Whole Foods on the Bowery leave a trail of wilted organic markets in its wake? The vegetarian, all-organic, and entirely volunteer-run 4th Street Food Co-op and a handful of other nearby stores now have to compete with the city’s biggest location: The Bowery outpost, which opened last week, clocks in at 71,000 square feet. The Union Square emporium? 51,000. With stores set to open in Brooklyn, Tribeca, and Harlem in the next two years, the Whole Foods backlash is in full swing.
The Central Park Boathouse has allegedly been scamming the city — hiding money and giving away meals. [NYP]
Ollie’s Grill workers, claiming they are paid only $1.44 an hour, bring a federal lawsuit against the place. [NYS]
Jeffrey Chodorow is back to business, promoting Kobe Club on the Today show. The highlight? “This beef actually lowers your cholesterol.” [MSNBC]
East Village: ACME Bar and Grill will host a fund-raiser for a service-oriented trip to New Orleans; $20 gets you one drink, snacks, and a few moments reprieve from your liberal guilt. [Gothamist]
Lower East Side: Whole Foods! On the Bowery! Set to open! March 29! [Curbed]
Midtown West: Post scrounges for “breast” synonyms as Scores discovers it may lose its liquor license for two years. [NYP]
Park Slope: Two bakeries, one couple, and a rumored tale of marital acrimony, Health Department violations, and — maybe — sweet reconciliation. [Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn]
Roger Janin has been working at Lower East Side institution Guss’ Pickles for six years. “I used to hang out here,” says Janin. “The mother of one of my friends was working here. She asked if I wanted to push some pickles around and I said, ‘Sure, I got nothing better to do.’” These days Janin works at the stand with Pat Fairhurst, his mother and the current owner of the eightysomething-year-old establishment. We asked him what it’s like persevering through frostbite, two-hour lines, a budding lawsuit, 500-pound pickle barrels, and the very stinky train ride home.
Last week’s Valentine’s Day celebrations made us wonder what the loveage scene was like at Schiller’s, one of the city’s most romantic or, romantically lit, anyway restaurants. Who better to answer that question than veteran bartender (and MC of hip-hop band Spoken Movement) Corey Lima, who, in addition to being the creator of the Delancey martini, is also, we discovered, a matchmaker, consoler, and every now and then, an object of desire.
Tonight Regaté opens up a few doors down from Zucco (the place with the lavatory library). It’s the third French restaurant on the block, and in fact, chef-owner Marc Jehan did the lunch menu at the neighboring Café Charbon (before that, he operated seafood distributor Early Morning). Now he’s serving bistro fare like sesame salmon, lamb shank, a few varieties of mussels, and steaks in pepper, Roquefort, or béarnaise sauces; plus dishes (e.g. mouclade) from the isle of Re, where Jehan’s wife was born (she’s a hostess; his brother Jocelyn is a partner). Jehan is still waiting for some paintings to clear customs, but for once no there’s no SLA snafus: That’s a full bar you see. Daniel MaurerRegaté, 198 Orchard St., nr. Houston; 212-228-8555
During the year and a half Simon Hammerstein spent converting a former abattoir (and later, sign factory) into his dinner theater the Box, he hauled in an imposing set of doors from an insane asylum using his pimpmobile. We suspected the restroom décor would be similarly eccentric, and sure enough, the door to the wheelchair-accessible ground-floor WC comes from an old public schoolhouse. Then again, we’ve seen that before. The real action lay on the other side of the portals found down a narrow staircase, and at the end of the same sconce-lit hallway that leads to dressing rooms intended for circus freaks, S&M performers, and acrobats whenever the place finally opens, that is.
With just twenty seats (most wedged between the bar and a wall), Zucco: Le French Diner is one of the most lilliputian eateries in the city. Once we located the bathroom jammed in the back corner next to a prep table — and tapped on the cook’s shoulder so he could make room for us to open the door — we weren’t surprised to find that it's also tres petite. Thankfully, what the loo lacks in size, it makes up for with Godardian flair.
We like our yakitoris with Sapporo-splattered floors and burnt tinfoil walls, but the owner of this Ludlow Street newcomer ain’t having it. A designer who has also worked with Banana Republic outfitted the narrow space with dark wood paneling, mirror inlays of sakura flowers, and comfortable brown-leather bar stools. The opening menu is limited to grilled skewers like a heavily peppered black Angus beef in teriyaki sauce, capelin fish stuffed with roe, and kurobuta sausage, a baby bratwurst made from corn-fed pig and topped with mayonnaise dotted with fish roe. A dessert special consists of Jell-O stars made from osmanthus petals. Expect the chef to get still more fanciful when a full izakaya menu kicks in later this month. The restaurant has been awaiting a liquor license for eight months, and it may be a while longer before 30 types of sake are on offer; in the meantime, September Wine & Spirits is just across the street. Daniel MaurerYozakura Kushiyaki Bar, 168 Ludlow St., nr. Stanton St.; 212-226-2066
What are a couple of career nightlifers to do when the economic realities of the club business are giving them grief? Joe Vicari and Salvatore Imposimato, last seen running the late Happy Valley, have, for the moment, left models and bottles behind, but they haven’t strayed far: Last Friday they opened a pizza joint on Ludlow Street, the first of five they hope to introduce in the next year and a half. (Clearly, they mean to lure Rosario’s customers with this one.) Their formula is simple: thin-crust, gas-fired brick-oven pies like their aunts and uncles from Italy made (the Grandma is made with fresh cheese, garlic, olive oil, and cherry tomatoes from the San Rosano region). In addition to a margherita, a Sicilian, and a few other varieties, the joint stocks the usual assortment of calzones, zeppolis, and garlic knots plus (as if the arcade across the street at Max Fish weren’t enough) a Street Fighter machine in the back. Those late-night revelers too smashed to wait for their slice to come out can buy bags of fresh dough for three bucks a pop. Daniel MaurerPizzeria De Santo, 173 Ludlow St., nr. Houston St.; 212-533-3337.
Last night 205 and neighbor the Box, which opens in a couple of weeks, had a veritable door-off: A 205 list keeper unsympathetically turned away skater types who came to celebrate Vice's “Girls” issue while a doorman at the Box iced down uptowners trying to huff and puff their way into the Me magazine party (sample bluster: “My sister was a model in this week’s magazine. She must be on the list”). Passing both scenes on our way to admire the taxidermy collection at Home Sweet Home, we snapped a pic of the Boxcar (“The Box, 189 Chrystie St.” a decal on the door reads). Is this the personal pimpmobile of Simon Hammerstein, enfant terrible of the theater-owning Hammerstein family and proprietor of the Box? And is that tear in the side fallout from the Freemans–Box showdown? We’ll say this much: If you pull up in front of the place in this hooptie, at least you’re getting in. Daniel Maurer
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Lower Eastpacking District bar opening with full liquor license! Naked Earth coffee-shop owner Shuki Kazaz has teamed up with first-timer Stephen Schuler to open a “classy dive” with a fifties pinup-theme in the diminutive space that once housed Lulu’s Gourmet Coffee. Turns out the owner of Lulu’s had a liquor license up his sleeve, and the new proprietors are using it to prepare variations on classic cocktails, as well as a “bubblegum martini” created by a bartender at Schiller’s (rest assured, the concoction doesn’t contain Juicy Fruit). Delivery from Schiller’s is also available. So why can’t you order from the neighboring Tides? “Pinups and seafood don’t really mix,” Schuler says. Daniel Maurer Nurse Bettie, 106 Norfolk St., nr. Delancey St.; 917-434-9072. Opens fully January 18.
The culinary colonization of the Lower–Lower East Side continues apace. Last month sushi newcomer Jin brought an $80 omakase menu, though no alcohol, to a former hosiery shop on Broome Street. Around the corner, Diane Wongprasert (owner of Regional Thai Taste, Pad Thai, and Sa-Woy) has just opened Sticky Rice, a casual, quietly stylish spot that specializes in the northeastern Thai tradition of barbecuing with spicy lemongrass marinades but does not serve beer or wine. Side dishes include a thick, chewy slab of Thai bacon, grilled corn glazed in coconut sauce, and of course all manner of sticky rice (turmeric, pandana, etc.). If ginger tea doesn't cut it, there's a liquor store a few blocks east on Delancey. Daniel MaurerJin, 252 Broome St., nr. Orchard St.; 212-979-0989.Sticky Rice, 85 Orchard St., nr. Broome St.; 212-274-8208.
The Lower East Side, a.k.a. the Lower Eastpacking District, was never exactly a hotbed of haute gastronomy. But as Rob and Robin note in this Short List, it's gotten to the point that just Rivington Street alone has seen everything from pizza to Cambodian noodles appear. Below, a link to four new places worth trying in the "Rivington Street corridor."
Beyond Pickles and Matzo [NYM]
A friend of Porchetta chef Jason Neroni has alerted us to the fact that, despite having taken over for Wylie Dufresne at 71 Clinton Fresh Foods before starting his new gig, Neroni does not consider Dufresne his mentor. "Because Wylie made such a name for 71 Clinton Fresh Food, I think people tend to compare our styles a lot," Neroni tells us. "But Smith Street isn't the Lower East Side, and I'm in this business to do what I love, and to be myself." The chef credits Alice Waters and Dan Hill for teaching him about ingredients, Floyd Cardoz for teaching him about "multidimensionality," and Alain Ducasse for teaching him to "slow down, combine all the elements, and create a cuisine that I could, for the first time, truly consider to be mine."
A Restaurant Revolution on Smith Street? [Grub Street]
Gertel's Bakery, one of the last of the old-time Jewish bakeries on the Lower East Side, may be shutting down, another victim of the condo-ing of New York. "We haven't finalized anything yet," owner Abe Stern told us, without denying the possible closing, widely discussed in the neighborhood. If that bakery's classic hamantaschen and rugalach are on the way out, we wondered, Can Yonah Shimmel's knishes and Kossar's bialys, other pillars of Jewish baked goods, be far behind?