71 Clinton Street, the former home of 71 Clinton Fresh Food and one of the New York dining world’s most hallowed addresses, will be back on the market next week after a previous deal collapsed. A Craigslist ad that put the rent at $11,500 for 1,200 square feet plus basement has now been removed, presumably because Tower Brokerage is adding the option of an adjacent corner space. Tower honcho Bob Perl says the previous lessee couldn’t handle the high rent and abandoned the space a week and a half ago. “It was an unknown-name type of entity,” Perl told us, speculating that they were inexperienced first-time operators. Want to make their same mistake? Call Bob now!
Retail Listings [Tower Brokerage]
Pera’s plan to sell picnic baskets may seem like just another sop for Hampton-bound swells; really, it’s part of the restaurant’s master expansion strategy. Executive chef Jason Avery tells us that “Pera was never intended to be a one-shot deal; we’re looking to expand in the city, and across America.” Pera hasn’t found the right space or lease yet, but when it does, it will follow the lead of what Avery is already calling “our flagship restaurant.”
Last week, after over a year of construction, the American Grill finally opened in the old Kiev space, and it will soon be operating 24/7 (it's currently open till midnight). Will the glorified diner be able to succeed where Loside (now closed 24/7) failed? Will old-neighborhood offerings of pirogen and blintzes lure 4 a.m. drunks away from Odessa? Probably not, but ten-ounce Angus-beef burgers topped with Gruyère, proscuitto, or avocado just might, not to mention a sandwich menu that includes the 'wich-hound's holy grail (the hot muffuletta) and a selection of proper entrées created by consulting chef Pnina L. Peled, who previously worked with Sensa and Elmo. The owners (three Greek brothers from Queens) expect to instate their-beer and-wine license any day now, but management insists this is a family spot. You know, in case the tots are hankering for a sixteen-ounce steak after a night at Sin Sin.
American Grill, 117 Second Ave., at 7th St.; 212-777-1286.American Grill menu
Eating for a living takes the Underground Gourmet to all sorts of strange and mysterious places — the Upper West Side, for instance — but none more sinisterly exotic than the typical department-store café. As anyone who’s ever lunched on frozen yogurt and cantaloupe at Bloomingdale’s Forty Carrots or nibbled miniature quiche at the American Girl Cafe can attest, these shopaholic fuel stations are not the manliest places to tie on the noonday feedbag. So how the UG found himself ensconced at a petite table at Henri Bendel’s new third-floor Chocolate Bar the other day, God and Ms. UG only know.
Nello’s Nello Ballan gives Richard Johnson a $1,000 gift, and fifteen "Page Six" mentions of Ballan’s restaurant later, the embattled gossip column has the devil to pay. [NYT]
Jody Williams claims not to have read Frank Bruni’s review of Morandi, though she knows that people are laying odds on the date of her departure. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Related: Not So Bene [NYM]
Restaurant-industry lobbyists express a not-unexpected disappointment with the federal minimum-wage increase passed by Congress, finding it “entirely out of place” in a war-spending bill. [Nation's Restaurant News]
It’s Memorial Day weekend, folks, which means that until Tuesday, we’re peace outtie in our leased Audi. If you’re not going to the Hamptons for the opening of Stereo by the Seashore this weekend, and you don’t feel like being cooped up at one of PDT’s pre-opening parties, allow us to suggest a rooftop bar — twenty of them, in fact, from the don’t-even-think-about-it Private Roof Club and Garden at the Gramercy Park Hotel to Mé Bar, where you can simply order pizza and crack a cheap beer in the glow of the Empire State Building. Heck, maybe we’ll stay in town after all
Bar Buzz: Rooftops Revisited
“I don’t miss anything about California except Mexican food and Vietnamese food,” says Vinh Nguyen, a onetime UCLA premed who fell into the hospitality business as a bar back at Santa Monica’s legendary Father’s Office. Since moving east three years ago, Nguyen has found New York’s Vietnamese options sorely lacking, especially when compared to the home cooking of his mother, an immigrant who left school at 9 to sell street food in Hue. The problem, as he sees it, is laundry-list menus that are too hit-or-miss, combined with “atmospheres” defined by single-white-napkin dispensers and dirty bathrooms.