When the restaurant economy is good-and it’s very good indeed-culinary maternity wards overflow with the wistful, the risk-takers and, as always, the inept. This spring’s crop of new restaurants reflects these flush times in scope, number and variety. More than ever, it seems that successful restaurants are spinning off carbon copies of themselves, while others are taking up in fancy digs that just two or three years ago would have been considered outlandish.
Blue-chip gastro-entrepreneurs continue to sow seeds around the island: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Tom Colicchio, Laurent Tourondel and Bobby Flay, to name a few. And the little guys are finding opportunities as well, as evidenced by all the bistros (American and French), trattorias and homey American spots that are opening in all parts of town. Conversations with dozens of restaurateurs reveal that New Yorkers are dining out more than ever, spending more and, in particular, drinking better wine. Here are some of the more noteworthy new spots where you can indulge in all three:
In June, Arlene Weston, of the Caribbean/Southern restaurant Maroons, on 16th Street, opens an uptown branch in West Harlem. Bobby Flay has taken over the former Judson Grill on West 52nd Street and rechristened it Bar Americain, with an opening scheduled for March. In May, Laurent Tourondel’s BLT trademark finds its third location on East 22nd Street, the former space of Union Pacific, to be called BLT Meat (or perhaps BLT Prime).
Stephen Starr, a successful Philadelphia restaurateur, is moving north to open a Japanese restaurant called Morimoto in the Chelsea Market; another import poised for a mid-March opening is KOI, a spin-off of a Los Angeles restaurant by the same name. It will be in the Bryant Park Hotel.
Another hotel creation slated for a spring opening is the American-style Country, in the Carlton Hotel on 29th Street and Madison, under the culinary direction of Geoffrey Zakarian.
It will be a busy spring for Tom Colicchio, who in April plans to move Craft Bar to new and larger quarters nearby at 900 Broadway; the existing Craft Bar will become a private dining room for Craft restaurant. Mr. Colicchio will also open another of his gourmet sandwich shops, ‘wichcraft, in Tribeca, as well as establish a commissary and retail space in the former Tunnel on 11th Avenue. Finally, he has just signed a deal to take over the kiosks in Bryant Park, which will serves sandwiches, ice cream, coffee and more.
Two ethnic restaurants are throwing down roots in the West Village: the Japanese Yumcha on Bedford Street (late March), and Diablo Royale, serving Mexican fare (May). In April, Jean-Georges Vongerichten opens a 60-seat restaurant at Perry Street and the West Side Highway. The type of food is not yet finalized.
Moving into the East Village is director/restaurateur Bob Giraldi’s TBD. Joe, the popular West Village coffee shop, will move this month to 9 East 13th Street.
On an unspecified date this spring, David Bouley will open Bouley Bakery, a three-story food market, bakery and 30-seat restaurant near Bouley restaurant on West Broadway in Tribeca. And starting in May, uptowners can begin saving a lot of cab fare when Nobu arrives on 57th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.