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Fall Previewing, 2007: A Primer

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Welcome to the Fall Previews, folks. Fall is the best season for a restaurant to open -- the summer set is back from vacation and the tourists will soon be here in full-force -- and almost all restaurateurs make an attempt at getting their new restaurants open between now and Christmas. The last 10 days has brought lengthy fall previews listing from all the New York major print publications -- chiefly, the Times, New York, and TONY -- and so now we can begin to wait for the dozens of venues listed to open. Some will open (Market Table, Tailor); some will be significantly delayed (Zeppelin, Tailor); and others stand almost no chance of opening (10 Downing). Reading these previews can be like trying to make sense of an airplane wiring schematic, which is to say it's a real shitshow, especially when it comes to figuring out how much truth is contained in any one listing. But we're here to help. Over the next two weeks, we'll be focusing on the restaurants worth focusing on, and getting in deeper on determining which will open, and when you should start caring about them. But, now, by way of getting started, we bring you three simple tips that should help make understanding fall previews a great deal easier.

1) Compare and contrast 2006 and 2007 listings to monitor progress. Delicatessen and Mac Bar has been coming soon for twelve months now. So, how much progress has been made? Let's see.

2006, Times:An international array of comfort food in a sleek industrial setting defines Delicatessen. The adjacent Macbar will be headquarters for 15 variations on mac and cheese to eat at the bar or take out (March 2007). 54 Prince Street (Lafayette Street).

2007, Times: German pancakes, blintzes and other examples of international comfort food will be prepared by Doron Wong. The long-delayed Delicatessen will have a sleek industrial design. The adjacent Mac Bar will be headquarters for 15 variations of mac and cheese to eat at the bar or take out: 54 Prince Street (Lafayette Street), (212) 744-1600. November.

Answer: They've hired a chef, but the build-out isn't even close. Prognosis: 2007 is a long shot.

2) Careful study of multiple previews yields actual intel about the venue you're interested in. Maybe Florence Fabricant for the Times spoke to a publicist for, say, Zeppelin and Jordana Rothman for Time Out actually spoke to an owner. Separately, neither really have any clue, but together, with a little help from New York, a picture is painted:

NY Times: The former Marylou’s is being turned into this Art Deco-style spot with four dining rooms and a garden by the owners of the Employees Only lounge: 21 West 9th Street, no phone yet. November.

TONY: Cushy banquettes and an early-20th-century moniker indicate the—what else?—speakeasy vibe at this West Village brasserie from chef Keith Harry (Chanterelle) and the team behind Employees Only. Expect Francophile staples like steak with béarnaise sauce and raw-bar selections. 21 W 9th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (no phone yet). [Early December.]

New York: Who better than the fastidious cocktail shakers from Employees Only to revive the spirit of this once-storied space (Marylou’s and, before that, a Prohibition-era speakeasy)? Keith Harry (Chanterelle) is cooking what they’re calling old-world American brasserie, and the name is for the blimpy airships, not the band. 21 W. 9th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; no phone yet. [December.]

See how if we pool our resources we can actually understand what's happening? Clearly Zeppelin, with its conflicting reports on decor, cuisine and, most unfortunately, opening date is, like Delicatessen, unlikely to see the light of day in 2007. It's just not that far along. But the key people are in place and early 2008 is looking good.

3) If a restaurant is truly close to opening, and it's not press shy, there is lots of information available. Let's look at the preview listings in the Times for Gray Kuntz new restaurant, Grayz from last year, then this year. First, last year:

GRAYZ What was Aquavit will be Gray Kunz’s new venue: a bar and lounge with small plates at street level, party spaces downstairs, but no more waterfall. (Spring 2007) 13-15 West 54th Street.
So, basically, there's no intel available, but it's opening in a few months: unlikely. Now, let's look at the 2007 listing:
GRAYZ Gray Kunz has turned the former Aquavit, in a Rockefeller town house, into a plush, gracious lounge and restaurant, with new twin entrances. Among the many components on the ground floor are an intimate bar with an open kitchen, a larger lounge and a private room. Downstairs, the place has been fitted with a dining room and a bar called the Speakeasy, and another private room with a soaring atrium sprouting a wall of greenery, and room for 80 guests. The menu offers small and large plates for lunch, cocktail time and dinner, many served on special little wooden presentation blocks, in tiny casseroles and bowls with petaled rims, adding visual allure to Mr. Kunz’s take on oysters Rockefeller, tempura okra, weisswurst with homemade pretzels and berries with elderflower gelée, some with cocktails designed to match: 13-15 West 54th Street, (212) 262-4600. End of this month.
Well, what do you know? It sounds like there's an actual restaurant coming together—and that 'end of this month', while ambitious, may not be far off.

We'll be back with more preview madness soon. In the meantime you can get perusing on your own and let us know what you find.
· Here Come the Chefs [NYT]
· From New York to the Horizon [NYT]
· Four Coursing: Can Old Guard Chefs Outshine Their Junior Counterparts? [TONY]
· Coming Right Up: Beef, Burlesque, and Bull This Fall [TONY]
· Best of the Rest [NYM]
· Where the Underground Gourmet Will be Eating [NYM]

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