In the late 80’s when the Marriott Marquis first opened, I went there for drinks one night. I remember I ordered a cosmopolitan, the trendy drink at the time. What most impressed me that evening was not the beautiful new hotel or the fishbowl size martini glass my drink was served in. No, what most impressed me was the twelve dollars they were charging for a drink.
It’s 2015 and the twelve dollar cocktail is ubiquitous in New York City. In fact if you’re at a roof top bar or a “West Village hot spot” you, more than likely, are looking north of fifteen dollars. Now, a bowl of soup for ten dollars or more is also in vogue. Okay, I get the drinks. I even get the eighteen dollar glass of wine. But the ten dollar bowl of soup—I find that hard to swallow. I was a chef for many years—I know what it costs to make soup and unless there are truffles shaved on top, ten bucks for soup is a stretch.
But the more I think about it, rents weren’t anywhere close to what they are today. That’s why we have the current high turnover rate for restaurants. I’ve read that the square footage cost in the West Village is one of the highest in the country.
Food costs have gone up twenty-five percent in the last five years. The equation used to price a menu was so much different, even ten years ago. It used to be a third for food, a third for expenses and a third for labor. That equation has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Now prices have to reflect the high overhead, hence the twelve dollar bowl of soup or twenty-five dollar glass of Cab. See, the prices have gone up again already.
New restaurants coming into the West Village are not mom and pop operations. No, these are well-funded and well-publicized companies with names like Jody Williams at Via Corata or Rosso Pomo Doro with its Eataly pedigree. Places that can handle the rents and have a following that starts the register ringing from day one.
A few years back, George Capsis wrote an article in this publication about a German Bakery going in at 137 Seventh Avenue called Landbrot. After a one million dollar renovation, sadly Landbrot did not have the success needed to stay in the village and closed its doors.
That space has been undergoing renovations again, this time by Dominique Ansel—the creator of the Cronut and who many consider a baking genius. Although this bakery will be a Cronut-free zone, the lines lacking at Landbrot will find their way from Mr. Ansel’s Spring Street location to Seventh Avenue. The shop’s premise will be based on a made-to-order French technique called à la minute. Instead of picking something out of a glass case, you’ll be ordering and they’ll be cooking. This just may be the formula for success in the West Village. Unique and creative with a side bar of notoriety.
Last month I asked for some reader suggestions on great dishes in the West Village. The response has been great! Please keep them coming and keep me out of Brooklyn. Johnbarrera8@gmail.com