In this great dining city of ours, barely a day passes without news of an exciting new restaurant opening, a devastating closing, or a groundbreaking, must-try dish. That’s why we’re keeping you apprised of the industry’s most noteworthy bits and bites, including the launch of two major Mexican ventures, some unexpected chef shuffles, and updates on Eataly’s ongoing expansion plans.
Viva la Mexico: It’s often been said that New York’s Mexican food scene pales in comparison to California’s, but that was before this week! Two of the season’s most eagerly anticipated (Mexican) projects have quietly and unexpectedly soft opened; Alex Stupak’s second taco venture, Empellon al Pastor, and Cosme, the first stateside juggernaut from Mexico City’s celebrated chef, Enrique Olvera. We may still have a bit of ground to make up against California, and its casual, highly authentic roadside taquerias, but our game is looking pretty good when it comes to classic pork and pineapple tacos (thanks to Empellon al Pastor), and mushroom and potato barbacoa with avocado-leaf adobo, courtesy of Cosme.
All About Eataly: They’ve already opened multiple branches around the world, but it was only a matter of time before the Italian megastore, Eataly, sought to expand its reach within New York City. Although it won’t debut for another year, construction has begun on a 45,000-square foot outpost in the World Trade Center, which will include multiple restaurants as well as an expansive market. No word yet on whether it will also boast a wine shop like the original location — which just relaunched after a prolonged battle with the New York State Liquor Authority, over “suppressed information” regarding connections between their wine production and retail divisions.
Toques About Town: Mere months into their respective tenures at the recently opened Beautique and Bacchanal, chefs Craig Hopson and Scott Bryan somewhat shockingly left their positions, without much in the way of explanation (which pretty reliably translates to “irreconcilable differences”). But both of the talented toques have emerged once again, with Bryan taking over the reigns at the beleaguered Corvo Bianco (which was helmed, in quick succession, by Elizabeth Falkner and Chris Wyman), and Hopson replacing Bryan in the kitchen at the Mediterranean-inspired Bacchanal. Here’s hoping for the best for all involved, but we’re sort of expecting more gossip column fodder in the weeks to come.
Dandy Candy: Veggie-forward menus are becoming standard at restaurants throughout New York, but Dirt Candy was well ahead of the trend when it opened in 2008. And now, six years later, chef-owner Amanda Cohen is fully capitalizing on the meat-free craze she spearheaded, by launching Big Candy in December; a plus-sized outpost of her original, produce-adulating eatery. And as well befits the inventor of Smoked Broccoli Dogs and Eggplant Tiramisu, Cohen’s tentative menu blasts the perception of boring vegetarian fare right out of the water; think Kale Matzoh Balls, Kale Ramen Noodles, and Donuts stained scarlet with sweet, juicy beets.
Permanent Pop-Up: Chez Jose, one of our favorite Brooklyn restaurants of last year, wasn’t, in the strictest sense, a restaurant at all — it was a pop-up. But chef-owners Jose Ruiz-Ramirez (formerly of Isa), and Pam Yung (Roberta’s), have officially taken over their Williamsburg space, launching a true, brick-and-mortar eatery called Semilla. Much in the style of their debut project, the 18-seat spot will serve a mostly veggie tasting menu, featuring dishes, like Matsutake Mushrooms grilled à la minute with charred pear and raw shaved sunchokes, and Daikon en Brioche with wilted arugula salad, onion jus, and black-garlic puree.
Taking it to the Streets: When you sell hot dogs for barely more than a dollar, it’s hard to keep up with New York’s astronomically rising rents (witness the slow and steady demise of city stalwart, Gray’s Papaya). Which is why Papaya King, in a canny maneuver, is going the mobile route, first launching a truck, and now joining the “Dirty Water Dog” fray with its very first cart, regularly parked in front of Macy’s in perennially mobbed Herald Square. And expect a lot more than onion-capped franks and fruity drinks to-go; the 80-year-old business is upping the ante with all manner of greasy goodies, including fried pickles, fried Oreos and fried Twinkies. If that’s what you’re having for lunch, you might want to think twice about trying on clothes at Macy’s afterwards.