June seems to be a popular time for openings. Last year, we counted 12 new spots, this year seven. We were happy to see a small, independent antique store open on 7th Avenue. Two big name restaurants started service this month as well. High rents were cited again as a reason for restaurant closure. The most dramatic news this month was the fire, which broke out above the ceiling at Tavo (at 615 Hudson Street, between Jane and West 12th Streets) during the NYC Pride Parade. The Daily News reported that 12 firefighters were injured battling the blaze, which took over two hours to extinguish. The restaurant is temporarily closed, and Tavo’s Facebook page has the following update: “Just know that Tavo will reopen its doors very soon and is looking forward to seeing you all when we do.”
❶TYME Fast Food (Gansevoort Market – 353 West 14th Street, near 9th Avenue): This tiny stand near the entrance to the food court, from the team behind The Fat Radish, offers meals in jars, a similar concept to Ancolie on 8th Street except that these jars are plastic, not glass. Each jar has four to six layers of what are described as healthy foods, usually a combination of grains, beans/pulses, and vegetables, some raw and some cooked. The jars sell for $10.00 but you can get $1.00 off your next purchase by returning the jar. More locations are coming to NYC later this year.
❷ E.A.K. Ramen (469 6th Avenue, near 11th Street): In the old Kin Shop space, E.A.K. Ramen, with the tagline “But First, Ramen,” showcases the IEKEI style of ramen. In Japan, the company has over 400 stores, with more in other parts of Asia. They are now spreading the IEKEI gospel in the U.S. with two restaurants, the other in L.A. The ramen comes with a broth made of chicken and pork. The noodles are short, fat, and straight, and the toppings include spinach and a large piece of Nori, which is embossed with the name of the restaurant and a picture of a bowl of ramen. I tried the Oh So Hot ramen and the Spicy Fried Rice, both delicious. Interesting ramen facts are displayed on signs around the restaurant. A few days after the grand opening, the restaurant was shut down by the NYC Department of Health, but after a week or so of construction, it has reopened.
❸ Fatbird Southern Kitchen and Bar (44 9th Avenue, at 14th Street): When The Diner closed at 14th Street and 9th Avenue, the space did not stay empty for long. After a period of renovations, Fatbird, a southern-inspired restaurant from Iron Chef Cat Cora, has opened in that space. Eater’s Robert Sietsema filed an unusually harsh review, complaining about everything from the sugary drinks to the flavorless chicken, to the general disarray in a list of 11 things that went wrong during his dinner there. He did enjoy the biscuits, so I ordered one at the biscuit bar, and while it was good (my daughter said it was the best biscuit she’d had), the transaction took forever. They first had to go downstairs to get the biscuit, then I was overcharged, and finally the cashier could not figure out how to give me any change. I hope they can recover as the spot is lovely with its cheerful outdoor terrace. Other than the newly opened 33 Greenwich, there are not many spots for southern food in the neighborhood.
❹ Red Hen (237 West 14th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues): The folks at The Crooked Knife across the street decided that the neighborhood needed a high quality sandwich shop. So, when this location became available, they opened Red Hen. The Signature Sandwiches span the globe with ingredients such as crispy pork belly, Greek lamb meatballs, and falafel. The gigantic breakfast sandwiches, served from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. are a great deal at $8.00 and range from The Health Freak to The Beast.
❺ The Upper Rust (143 7th Avenue South, at Charles Street): We so often see stores closing in the West Village because of high rents that it is a nice change to see a store arrive in the West Village because of high rents elsewhere. The Upper Rust, the antique and curio shop which had been at East 9th Street and Avenue A for about 14 years, left that location when their lease ran out. After a brief stint in Chelsea, they landed on 7th Avenue South. It is a charming store, of the type that used to populate Bleecker Street in the 1980s. We hope that they are successful here.
❻ Emily (35 Downing Street, at Bedford Street): Into the old Blue Ribbon Bakery space comes a branch of the popular Brooklyn pizzeria, Emily. At the West Village location, the pizzas come in two styles—a round New York pie cooked in the wood-fired oven and a square Detroit-Grandma pie that has an oilier and more substantial crust. The square pies come in four “colors,” some traditional and some unusual. The spectacular Grammy pie was reminiscent of a pizza della nonna; the sausage and Calabrian chilis were a wonderful addition. In Brooklyn, the Hylands, owners of Emily, have two restaurants—Emily and Emmy Squared. It was widely reported in the press that the West Village location would be an Emmy Squared, but this turned out not to be the case. One possible explanation was provided by the New York Post, which reported that the Hylands are being sued by their Emmy Squared investors who claim, among other things, that they were shut out of the Manhattan expansion. The Hylands deny this and all other allegations in the suit.
❼ Ms. Mi’s Hot Pot (3 West 14th Street, near 5th Avenue): Ms. Mi’s Hot Pot comes to the Village from Lanzhou, China, at a time when hot pot restaurants seem to be popping up all over the place. The mutton-based broth can be ordered in either Chinese Herbal or Szechuan Hot & Spicy form. The hot pots are customizable with vegetables, noodles, and meats, some common and some not so common (such as cattle tail, lamb stomach, beef tripe, and special high calcium meat). Four kinds of tofu are also available.
After six years of service, Monument Lane (103 Greenwich Avenue, at West 12th Street) has closed its doors. While it never seemed that full when it opened, more recently there was often a lively crowd in the evenings. Like Good, a block away, which closed last month, it will be missed by locals. Bespoke Kitchen (615 ½ Hudson, between Jane and West 12th Streets) is also gone. It was one of my favorites, but it had a string of bad luck which finally forced it to close. According to one of the owners, because of a gas upgrade in the building, there was no gas in the restaurant when it opened. The owners were in the process of applying for gas when a flood closed the restaurant for three months last August. During the repairs, a second flood occurred. Finally, the restaurant reopened in November but, due to the $20,000 per month rent (which the owners had to pay while the restaurant was closed), unexpected expenses, and fewer patrons, the restaurant struggled financially and finally had to close. 2nd Time Around (17 Greenwich Avenue, between West 10th and Christopher Streets), the nationwide consignment shop has closed this and all other locations.
Xi’an Famous Foods (313 6th Avenue, between Cornelia and Carmine Streets): Xi’an is a city in northwest China and this chainlet has been serving the food of the region since 2005. The most popular item on the menu is the hand-ripped Biang Biang noodles fried in oil and seasoned with cumin, chili, and Sichuan peppercorns, similar to those served at Very Fresh Noodles in Chelsea Market. Many of the dishes contain lamb. This location, on a rather bleak stretch of 6th Avenue will be their tenth store in Manhattan. According to signs plastered around the neighborhood, Uncle Biagio has applied for a liquor license in the Monument Lane space. No other information is available at this time.
ad hoc | collective COFFEE + SHOPPE (13 Christopher Street, near Gay Street): This new subterranean coffee shop is in soft opening mode. Coffee, breakfast foods, and pastries are available now to consume on the comfortable couches. Everything in the store is for sale, including the art on the walls.
Fortunately, the excellent Stevdan Pen & Stationers (474 6th Avenue, at West 12th Street) is not closing, but rather, moving across the street to the much smaller space that used to house Custom Care Cleaners (473 6th Avenue, between West 12th and West 11th Streets).
E.A.K. Ramen” and “Emily” photos by Ede Rothaus. All other photos by Maggie Berkvist.