By Caroline Benveniste All photos by Maggie Berkvist.
It was a fairly quiet month for openings and closings in the West Village, but there were a number of widely-reported events, such as the opening of Do¯, Milk Bar, and the purchase of Murray’s Cheese by Kroger.
Gansevoort Market/Chelsea Market Update
As usual, much happened in these food halls. In Chelsea Market, Eleni’s, one of the original tenants, which served “playfully unique cookies,” closed when their 20-year lease expired. While the company still exists and has a bakery in Long Island City where you can pick up items, there are no longer any Eleni’s retail stores (the one on the Upper East Side closed a few years ago). Someone I spoke with at Eleni’s said that they were looking for a new location. In the meantime, please send us your cupcake recommendations. I’m not sure where to go now and I’ve never been a fan of Magnolia, even before it became a tourist magnet.
In related cupcake news, the branch of Billy’s Bakery in Gansevoort Market has closed. Is this a sign that consumers no longer want cupcakes because they’ve moved on to the next food trend? Or is Billy’s closing more a reflection of the climate at Gansevoort Market? The Doughnut Project left that location in October after only a few short months. When I spoke with someone at their main store, they stated that they were not selling enough doughnuts at Gansevoort to pay the cashier, let alone the rent. Also gone from Gansevoort Market are Cocoa Grinder and Luke’s Lobster. A new addition to the site is Manhattan Chili Company.
Bubble Bar (204 West 14th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues): Last month, I mistakenly wondered why we needed another bubble tea spot on 14th Street. But, in fact, the “Bubble” here refers to bubble waffles, which are a Hong Kong specialty. The bubbly owner, Momoku Hu, is from Taiwan and explained that the waffle irons had to be custom made. The waffles look like large brown bubble wrap, which doesn’t sound very pretty until they are inserted into cups and dressed up with ice cream, toppings, and drizzles. These delicious confections could fuel the next social media explosion on 14th Street now that the lines for the crazy sundaes at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer have finally ebbed.
Milk Bar opened in record time at 74 Christopher Street (near 7th Avenue South). This is the eighth branch of the Momofuku baked goods store in New York. I have never understood the appeal of the crack pie (I find it dry and uninteresting), but other items, such as the truffles, are delicious. Milk Bar is the latest addition to a desolate block that is suddenly showing signs of life with the recent opening of Woof World and the relocation of Hudson Bagels.
Doˉ (550 LaGuardia Place, near West 3rd Street): The situation here was one of the most-reported Village events this month. The lines that sprung up as soon as Do¯ opened rivalled the legendary Cronut lines. According to the gentlemen in charge of crowd control, the lines can be up to three hours long. The store opens at 10:00am, and when I arrived at 10:15am, there was already a 20-minute wait, with people queuing up since 9:30am. My daughter and her friends waited about an hour and a half and were nice enough to bring me back some of the raw cookie dough. It was good: sweet, salty, and chocolatey. It comes in a variety of forms including scoops, ice cream “sandwiches,” and the decadent-looking cookie bomb.
While We Were Young Kitchen & Cocktails (183 West 10th Street, between West 4th Street and 7th Avenue South): This tiny closet of a space embodies what people think a West Village restaurant should look like. Words like “cozy” and “charming” fill the mostly delighted Yelp reviews. There is also a mixologist on site so cocktails are a big focus here.
Luv Tea (37A Bedford Street, near Carmine Street): This charming tea parlor with a Zen feel looks to elevate your tea experience. I am not a tea connoisseur, however, even I could recognize that the tea looked different. The featured decaf tea was made up exclusively of whole dried rosebuds and resembled potpourri, while the jasmine tea smelled like something I would have enjoyed spraying on myself. The store features green, black, and oolong teas. The oolong tea is grown in Taiwan at one of the two owners’ family’s tea plantations, ensuring that they get the highest quality tea. A nutritionist has conceived some gluten- and sugar-free options, with more standard pastries also available.
Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen at 35 Downing Street (at Bedford Street) has closed, as has the nearby Blue Ribbon Bakery Market. The leases came up at those two spots and the Bromberg Brothers decided not to renew. They will be opening Federal Grill in the Financial District and still own and operate many Blue Ribbon Restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and London. The Diner (44 9th Avenue, near West 14th Street) has closed after 12 years in business, which is part of a trend of diner closings that has been accelerating in New York in the last few years. Bar Truman, which had taken over the space originally occupied by Chelsea Market Baskets (which moved next door last summer) took a long time to open, then closed in record time. A reader informed us that Splendid Cleaners (523 Hudson Street, between Charles and West 10th Streets) closed in early February because the landlord raised the rent to $15,000 a month. Previously, they had been at the corner of Perry and Hudson Streets.
As was widely reported in the press, Murray’s Cheese (254 Bleecker Street, near Leroy Street) was purchased by Kroger—a national grocery store chain. (Read more details in the article on page 14.) Carmine Street Beers at 52A Carmine Street (near Bedford Street) has added “Tap Room” to its name. What was once a beer store with a large selection of craft/microbrew beers in bottles and growlers is now also a beer bar with the addition of taps. Akashi, the Japanese omakase restaurant on the lower level of 14 Christopher Street (at Gay Street), which we flagged as “Open” in our November issue, had a fire about a month ago and has been closed for repairs ever since. The folks at the upstairs Dominique Bistro, which is part of the same restaurant group, say that Akashi will be re-opening soon. In more fire news, we heard from a reader that there was a fire on February 4th at 679 Greenwich Street (at Christopher Street) in the space that used to house Nighthawks. The fire was in the ceiling above three booths on the Greenwich Street side, and firemen had to rip down the awning for access. Our observant reader also spotted a sign indicating that Jeju Noodle Bar is applying for a liquor license in that space.
Years ago, when restaurant-cum-fashion shop 202 Café closed in Chelsea Market, and before Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina opened in that space, the Beard House had a month-long series of pop-ups including some dinners. I attended a couple, and the best was the one with Chef Laurent Gras. He will be the chef at Grand Crew, which is coming to the Bar Truman space in Chelsea Market, and I am quite excited. Expect a spring opening. Emmy Squared, the second location of the Detroit-style pan pizza restaurant in Williamsburg will be opening in the Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen space at 35 Downing Street (at Bedford Street) in the spring. The reviews of the Williamsburg restaurant made it sound so enticing that I was actually contemplating a field trip to Brooklyn, but, luckily, that won’t be necessary now. Techin, a luxury menswear store with the tagline “Luxury with weekend attitude.” is coming to 123 Greenwich Avenue (between Horatio and Jane Streets). Cat Cora, a celebrity chef and TV food personality who appeared on Iron Chef America from 2005-2012 will be cooking at Fatbird, a Southern restaurant in the recently closed The Diner space at 44 9th Avenue (near West 14th Street). It will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
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