This month saw a continued proliferation of vegan and Mediterranean spots, particularly in the Bleecker/Carmine/MacDougal corridor. Some popular bars/restaurants are opening new locations in the West Village, and some places that had been limping along for a while have finally closed.
359 6th Avenue near Washington Place
Villagers may already be familiar with Chef Erik Ramirez from his Peruvian fast-casual spot Llamita on Carmine Street. Now he has opened a second restaurant in the Village called Llama San in the space that used to be home to La Palapa Rockola (a Mexican restaurant which still has a location in the East Village) and then Spanish tapas spot Tertulia. Llama San focuses on Nikkei cuisine, which combines Peruvian and Japanese ingredients. The menu features many raw fish and seafood dishes, and some meat dishes. There is also an 11-course tasting menu available. The wine list is large and varied and there is an ambitious cocktail program. Llama San has been a long time coming: according to Eater, the restaurant was supposed to debut last year but a fire in the space pushed back the opening.
22 1/2 Ninth Avenue at West 13th Street
Helen’s is the latest Chinese import to arrive in New York. Other recent and less recent additions are Da Dong, Hao Noodle (with two locations in the Village) and Hutong. The underground space is decorated with lots of gold and Asian themes, reminiscent of the old-fashioned restaurants in Chinatown, but more upscale. The website explains that “the lotus wall, which represents ‘the wheel of life,’ the law of cause and effect and reincarnation … took over two months to carve by chisel and hand.” There are drinks with Asian ingredients and bar bites of the dim sum variety available.
Jajaja Plantas Mexicana (63 Carmine Street near Bedford Street) is serving vegan Mexican food in the space that used to house Mr. Dennehy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. As with many vegan spots, there are meat-sounding options on the menu, such as bacon, which is really shitake mushrooms and chorizo which is a mix of vegetables. There are also sour cream and eggs listed which are presumably something else entirely. The Infatuation thinks that if you’re a vegan you may like it, but if you’re not, you’ll do much better elsewhere. According to Vegworld Magazine, Copper Branch Plant Based Power Food (195 Bleecker Street between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue) is the world’s largest plant-based restaurant chain. The company opened their first location in Montreal in 2014, and they now operate over 65 restaurants worldwide, with plans to quickly expand to 200. Breakfast is offered all day, with other options like bowls, soups, “burgers,” etc. available as well. In addition to being vegan, the food is also mostly non-GMO, organic, and has many gluten-free options. For vegan Mediterranean food there is Nefista Vegan Kofte (106 MacDougal Street between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets) which is owned by a Turkish company founded in 2008 with 8 locations in Turkey. A kofte is a Turkish meatball which comes in different shapes and sizes and is usually grilled. Olympia Pita (126 MacDougal Street near West 3rd Street) claims to be “Mediterranean Food at it’s (sic) Best.” The original restaurant in Brooklyn, which was previously known as “Olympic Pita,” is famous for its delicious housemade laffa, a sort of large and puffy pita. The sandwiches come on either pita or laffa, and include the usual offerings of falafel and shwarma, but also the less commonly seen Sabich (hard-boiled egg, hummus and eggplant) and Chicken Schnitzel. There was a midtown west location for a while, but it closed in the last year. The restaurant is kosher. In keeping with the Mediterranean theme, Taboonette (80 Carmine Street, near 7th Avenue South) has opened a new branch in the Village. A taboon is a clay oven, and some of the dishes are cooked in one. In addition to pita sandwiches, there are hummus bowls which you can get with a variety of toppings. Unlike Olympia Pita, Taboonette is not kosher (pulled pork is on the menu), but the breakfast offerings are much like what you would find in Israel. For vegan desserts, one option is the new Van Leeuwen at 113 MacDougal Street (near Minetta Lane). In addition to their regular ice cream, they also serve vegan ice cream, and with one of their vegan chocolate chip cookie you can make a plant-based cookie sandwich (which somehow does not sound that appealing). Asian import Koi Thé (189 Bleecker Street between 6th Avenue and Downing Street) has opened its first U.S. location. On the menu are Flavored Tea, Milk Tea, Chewy Tea, Macchiato and Tea Latte. For all of these you can choose your ice level and sugar level, and toppings such as Golden Bubble and Konjac Jelly are available for some of the drinks. Starmatter New York (47 Greenwich Avenue between Charles and Perry Streets) sports hemp plants in the window and describes itself as “New York’s high-touch concept shop curating the world’s finest brands and hosting conversations inspired by cannabis.”
Kusharista (106 MacDougal Street between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets) served Egyptian street food with an emphasis on kushari which is a sort of grain bowl with lentils, but they recently vacated the premises. Mekki (15 West 8th Street between 5th Avenue and MacDougal Street) opened in June, 2018 and served updated Moroccan food. The owner, Mekki Karrakchou, hoped the restaurant would become a neighborhood hangout, but unfortunately it never really caught on. The Woodstock (446 West 14th Street between Washington Street and 10th Avenue) which served high-quality cocktails for $10 and $15 pizzas in a space near the High Line has gone the way of the plans for the 50th anniversary concert. Raviolo (57 7th Avenue South, near Bleecker Street) was a tiny Italian restaurant that took over the space that had briefly housed Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter. Now, two years after it opened, it is no longer around to serve its eponymous dish. The owners also ran Mulino a Vino on 14th Street which closed last year. *FK* (330 Bleecker Street near Christopher Street), an Italian swimwear store, closed after about a year and a half on Bleecker Street. Also on Bleecker, the Gant Store (353 Bleecker Street between Charles and West 10th Streets) has been holding an 80% off sale in preparation for closing.
For many years, there was an old-fashioned caffé on MacDougal Street called Caffé Dante. Four years ago it was taken over by an Australian couple and transformed into a bar whose theme is Negronis. It has become extremely popular, and this summer it was named “Best American Restaurant Bar” by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation at their annual meeting in New Orleans. The owners are now planning to open Dante West Village at 551 Hudson Street (at Perry Street), another bar whose focus will be Martinis in a building we have heard is owned by the Gottliebs. Part of the space had been a Portuguese restaurant called Alfama, and later an Italian restaurant called Spasso. In April of 2017, we received an email from a reader who bemoaned the closing of his local newspaper/candy store at 551 Hudson Street. This space, which at the time was rumored to have a monthly rent of $6000, will also be incorporated into the new bar. The venue at the corner of West 4th Street and Bank Street which used to be Hamilton Ice Cream Parlor (which was owned by the same folks who owned Café Minerva just up the street which also closed and is now St. Tropez) will become a champagne and oyster bar called The Riddler (51 Bank Street). The first Riddler opened in San Francisco in 2017, and the new location, like the original, will feature over 100 champagnes by the bottle (as well as a large selection by the glass). The owner and investors are all women, and the restaurant’s motto is “Hello, old friend,” which is stenciled in gold on the window. The space that used to be Ellary’s Greens will now re-open as Nami Nori (33 Carmine Street between Bleecker and Bedford Streets), a Japanese restaurant featuring temaki or sushi hand rolls from a group of Masa alums. Restaurants at 64 Carmine Street (between Bedford and Varick Streets) have not lasted very long recently. The location housed Gentilly Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant serving New Orleans food, and after that Juice & Java. Now, signage is up for a new spot called Sveta which appears to be the name of the owner, who speaks in a strong Russian accent.
A reader alerted us to the goings-on at Baby Brasa (173 Seventh Avenue South at the corner of Perry Street), of which we had been entirely oblivious. After serving its Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken and Pisco Sours since May 2017, it has been closed by the City Department of Consumer Affairs for operating illegally: it turns out that they never applied for or secured an unenclosed-cafe permit or a liquor license permit for their outdoor tables. In addition, they also had violations regarding unauthorized changes to the façade. We contacted Village Preservation for more information, and we learned that the owners of the restaurant (including chef and former underwear model Franco Noriega) made changes to the building without permits including painting the building, installing signage (a neon sign and the ‘art wall’ or ‘graffiti wall’ which has said various things over time and now says “Maybe Baby”) and installing an awning. In order to clear the Landmarks violations, the owners applied for a permit to have the changes legalized but in May the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) asked for changes to the proposal which as far as we know were never made or presented to the LPC. Osteria 57 (57 West 10th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues) has upgraded from a wine and beer license to a full liquor license. This excellent Italian pescatarian restaurant will now be serving cocktails (and mocktails), and I can’t wait to try the Spirit Bird (Basil infused Tequila, Pineapple puree, Hibiscus, Agave, Lime). The Hemingway Daiquiri, which is usually made with grapefruit juice, here resembles a traditional daiquiri with the addition of mint (Rum, Lime Juice, Fresh Mint, Cane syrup, Bitters). Murray’s Mac and Cheese (250 Bleecker Street at the corner of Leroy Street), the pop-up next door to Murray’s Cheese which was slated to run through June looks like it will continue to operate for the foreseeable future (the “For Rent” sign has finally been removed).
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Photos by Chris Manis and Darielle Smolian.