By Caroline Beneviste
December was a busy month for restaurant openings. These spanned the gamut, from highly publicized spots with known chefs to smaller venues concentrating on specific foods/dishes.
1. Tavo (615 Hudson Street, between West 12th and Jane Streets): Tavo bills itself as serving Contemporary Latin American Cuisine, but many Asian influences are also present. The Mexican chef, Julieta Ballesteros, worked at Crema in Chelsea and then La Loteria in the West Village before partnering with fellow Monterreyan Francisco Decrescenzo to start her own restaurant. The most creative-sounding dish on the menu is the Cuban Lasagna which contains adobo pulled pork, plantains, mixed cheeses, arroz moro, pickled onions, and chicharron. There are also cocktails with unusual ingredients like activated charcoal and tobacco tincture. The elegant interior is a far cry from the worn décor of Sung Chu Mei, which, nevertheless, continues to be missed (at least by me) even though it closed eight years ago. With the return of Bespoke Kitchen, and the opening of High Street on Hudson and Michelin-starred Günter Seeger earlier this year, Hudson Street is once again becoming a vibrant dining destination after years of empty storefronts.
2. Mr. Panzerotto (124 MacDougal Street, near Minetta Lane and 3rd Street): This tiny second-floor space specializes in panzerotti, which are similar to calzones but smaller and fried. The owner, Christian Francone (who introduced himself as Chris), is very Italian and explained to me that panzerotti, originally from the Puglia region, are quite popular in much of Italy now, particularly in Milan. The offerings here range from the Mr. Sausage, with broccoli rabe and scamorza cheese, to the Miss Spinach, with spinach and vegan cream cheese. There are also sweet options, including one with Nutella.
3. The Rice Noodle (190 Bleecker Street, near Macdougal Street): As the name suggests, all dishes on the menu involve rice noodles, some in soup, some not, and some cold. This small restaurant is currently the only place in New York dedicated to Chinese food from Yunnan Province, a southern area of China with the country’s largest concentration of ethnic minorities. Having travelled there, I remember much of the food being quite spicy. The previous occupant of this space was the short-lived Bombay Duck
4. McNally Jackson Store: Goods for the Study (50 West 8th Street, between Macdougal Street and 6th Avenue): This high-end stationery store carries all manner of writing implements as well as a large selection of greeting cards. Everything in the store is pretty, and most of it is expensive.
5. 99 Bank (99 Bank Street, between Hudson and Greenwich Streets): Just as Mrs. Green’s closed on the east side of the building, 99 Bank opened, after almost two years of planning, on the west side. The restaurant started life as “The Missing Ingredient,” a reference to the gluten-free nature of the food. However, as work proceeded, the owners decided that it sounded somewhat negative and modified the name. Frank Baldassare, one of the owners, was diagnosed with Celiac disease in the early 2000s and has become an expert on the subject, travelling and lecturing on the disease and the gluten-free lifestyle. (If, like me, you were a regular at the Café Bruxelles bar in the 80s, you may recognize him as the Beverage Director there.) The lack of gluten is not immediately obvious when reading the eclectic menu. The burger buns are made in a small batch bakery to exacting specifications. Even the alcohol is grain-free.
6. Coarse NYC (Formerly Raw New York: 306 West 13th Street, near West 4th Street): This restaurant also had a course correction with its name. As the owner explained, having a restaurant named Raw “was a marketing nightmare, as you can imagine.” The intention was never to focus on raw food, and, in fact, the small starter menu has a number of cooked dishes, like Rabbit, Short Rib, and Veal Filet Mignon; the restaurant will be adding more.
7. Loring Place (21 West 8th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues): This restaurant is an exciting addition to a stretch of 8th Street that seems to be on the upswing. Dan Kluger, vegetable-lover and former chef at ABC Kitchen, is the owner. The restaurant describes itself as “local and seasonal” like many others, but, in this case, local farmers and their products (many from Union Square Greenmarket) are actually the inspiration for the food. Vegetarian options are plentiful, particularly in the non-entrée menu categories. Some of the entrées, as well as the pizzas, are cooked in a wood-burning oven—a very pleasant prospect on these cold winter days. The room is light, airy, and inviting.
8. Boucherie (99 7th Avenue South, near Grove Street): When we reported in February that Garage had closed, it seemed like another empty storefront would languish on this stretch of 7th Avenue for the forseeable future. However, a couple of months ago, work started at the site, and surprisingly quickly, Boucherie opened. The interior, with subway tile walls, mosaic floors, and a lovely, long wooden bar, transports customers to Paris in the early 1900s. The menu follows a similar theme with classic French bistro fare. The chef is Jerome Dihui, who was at Pastis for ten years, ultimately rising to the position of Chef de Cuisine there. This restaurant is the fourth in a collection of West Village restaurants called “The Group.” The three others are Dominique Bistro, Olio e Piu, and Akashi.
9. New York Kimchi (102 MacDougal Street, near Bleecker Street): This is essentially a fast food Korean spot, with Bibimbap, pan-fried rice bowls, dumplings (Mandoo) and other Korean dishes available cafeteria-style, with prices mostly below $12.
Donna McNally Salon, which was located at 154 West 10th Street (near Waverly Place), has moved and expanded. It is now called La Cave Salon & Day Spa, and is located at 57 Leroy Street (near 7th Avenue South).
The Spaniard (190 West 4th Street, near Barrow Street): The Spaniard was scheduled to open in the fall in the old Oliver’s City Tavern space which has sat empty since 2014. Signage is now up, as is an “S” mosaic on the ground at the entrance. The same team behind nearby Wilfie & Nell is involved here, so expect a comprehensive mixology program and well-prepared bar food (think Oysters Rockefeller). A group is trying to open a Middle Eastern soup dumpling spot in the old Charlie Mom space at 464 6th Avenue and 77 West 11th Street (remember, the space wraps around to 11th Street) which will be called Kubbeh. However, so far, they have not succeeded in their quest for a liquor license, having been turned down by Community Board 2. The NYS Liquor Authority held a 500 Foot Hearing on December 15th but the results of that have not yet been publicized.
The big closing news this month is Da Silvano (260 6th Avenue, between Bleecker and West Houston Streets). The New York Post interviewed Silvano Marchetto, owner of the sceney 41-year-old Village institution, who blamed the closure on “soaring operating costs,” including the new minimum-wage rules and monthly rent that had increased to $41,000 from $500 back in 1975. Little Marc (298 West 4th Street, near Bank Street), the Marc Jacobs children’s store, closed its doors in mid-December. In 2010, there were six Marc Jacobs stores in the Bleecker/West 4th Street area, and now only two remain (Marc Jacobs at 403 Bleecker and the bookstore Bookmarc at 400 Bleecker, both near West 11th Street). Preservationists may be getting their wish: “More Jane Jacobs, Less Marc Jacobs.” Rice Cream Shoppe, the rice pudding store at 195 Bleecker Street (near Macdougal Street) that opened in April seems to have gone out of business, although a sign on the door promises, “Temporarily Closed, Opening in December.” Tipsy Girl, at 45 West 8th Street (near 6th Avenue), failed to get a liquor license and probably figured it could not be all that tipsy without any alcohol. The awning has been partially removed and a “For Rent” sign graces the window. Downtown Stationers at 494 6th Avenue (between West 12th and West 13th Streets) is in the process of closing. While the store was not as well organized as Stevdan a block away, and the staff not as helpful, it was still often a good resource for specific stationery needs. I am usually quite sad to see another store close on Christopher Street, but the touts outside SkinSupreme at 87 Christopher Street (near Bleecker Street) were frankly annoying. They would always say, as you walked by, “Can I ask you something?” I learned quickly to just ignore them. People complained of terrible salespeople who tried to pressure them into buying overpriced products. Their SoHo location closed back in July.
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All photos by Maggie Berkvist.