By Caroline Benveniste
The retail activity on Hudson Street waxes and wanes with the seasons. Sometimes many of the restaurants and shops on one block close en masse (like Bespoke Kitchen, Tavo and La Maison Supreme), and other times improbably fancy stores open on a formerly bleak block (Günter Seeger, Sherri B and Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes). But Hudson Street has fewer and fewer old time shops that have a real Village feel to them. Ready To Eat is one of the survivors—it opened in 1999 and remains in the same location 20 years later. In 2013, the owner sold the business to Rami Mishani, an Israeli chef who had been running the kitchen at the Heschel School on the Upper West Side for 10 years. When Rami took over, the menu changed, and the focus shifted towards Levantine food, with dishes from Turkey, Greece, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Morocco. Rami was born in Israel, although his last name is Syrian (from Aleppo) and his mother was from Istanbul. In Israel he learned to cook in the army, and spent time cooking for generals when they were stationed at the border. When he came to the United States he studied at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in Soho. He did not always work in restaurants—he spent a few years driving limos, but when the opportunity presented itself he was excited to cook for students at the Heschel School (which his son attended). When he left his job there, he worked with a restaurant broker who connected him with the owner of Ready to Eat who was looking to sell. Rami had previously worked at a restaurant in the Village (Chez Ma Tante) so he was happy to return to the area.
The menu at the restaurant/take-out spot is huge: there are a number of items available daily, plus a set of five or so specials that change with the day of the week. Some of the food could be considered comfort food, but much of it would be appropriate for someone on a low-carb diet. The tomato stuffed with meat and rice and cooked in a bed of potatoes tasted identical to a Greek dish my mother makes. There are Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegetarian and Vegan dishes. The vegetable options are myriad, and you can make a meal of three vegetable sides. There are also soups, salads and Middle Eastern dips. To finish, there is a varied dessert selection that includes a dreamy carrot cake. It is hard to believe that all this delicious food is prepared from scratch in the tiny, 450 square foot store. One of the chefs, Pablo, came over with Rami from Heschel, and the hostess has been with Rami since he took over.
There is also a loyal clientele. At lunch, people come from neighboring offices. In the evening, some folks come directly from working out, still in their gym clothes. The younger patrons turn over every few years as they begin to date, get married, have a child and move out of the neighborhood. Rami is extremely friendly and obviously enjoys his interactions with his customers—in fact, he told me he has invited some of them to his house for Jewish Holidays if they have nowhere else to go, or want to have a Passover seder but don’t know how to do it themselves.
Rami’s son Guy now also works at the restaurant, and his job has been to identify new business opportunities. While the store always did catering, now they have become one of the top purveyors for the film industry in New York. Recently, the Rattlestick Theater arranged to have them provide some Idaho-inspired dishes that are served during the communal meal break between their currently-running plays LEWISTON and CLARKSTON.
When Rami took over the restaurant, there were six years left on the lease, but the lease will expire in early 2019. Hopefully the lease negotiations will go smoothly, and Ready To Eat will be able to continue feeding the neighborhood for years to come.
Ready to Eat
525 Hudson Street, between West 10th and Charles Streets