Just as Gansevoort Market has nearly reached its full complement of tenants, with pushcarts filling up the extra spaces not already taken up with counters and kiosks, the rest of the southern end of MePa is teeming with new restaurants under construction — and we should have seen it coming. Fashion storefronts are turning to restaurant usages, as seen in the old Tracy Reese space at 641 Hudson, right next door to the last remaining outpost of the Fatty Crab empire. There, German-born Buckhead, Atlanta superchef Guenter Seeger is hoping to establish his first New York outpost. Paper covers the windows, but looking through the interstices, you'll spy a space that's been gutted, with hanging bare light bulbs, and, on a recent visit, a single, mysterious guy sitting there in the semi-darkness wearing an Indiana Jones hat, a phone pressed to his ear.
Around the corner, Gansevoort Street is home to frenetic construction activity. Pastis is rumored to be re-opening on this block, though not until 2016, and there are three likely candidates among the street-level properties currently undergoing renovation along the raised sidewalks. First up, 60 Gansevoort: With two tall metal doors and a regular one in between, it was one of the original meat-packing establishments, but in the interim has served intermittently as a nightclub and rock venue. It's currently plastered with work permits, but also with a stop-work order citing illegal concrete work.
Across the street is the cursed space at 69 Gansevoort Street that still bears the name R & L Restaurant, though it most recently housed the Vinatta Project. It was once the bistro that started it all: Florent, founded in 1985, about which the New York Times marveled in 2001: "If you went at that hour [4 a.m.], as the first trucks were arriving with their cargoes of cold flesh, you might have found yourself seated at the counter with David Byrne on your right and, on your left, a man in a full beard, a merry widow and fishnet stockings." Real estate mogul Michael Shah took possession of the space well over a year ago, but nothing has come of that yet. However, the windows are now papered over and a string of delivery guys is seen arriving with boxes of construction material. But is this space big enough to be the new Pastis?
Back on the south side of Gansevoort Street at number 68 is the third candidate. It was once the showroom of fashion prodigy Giovanna Randall, who debuted her first line there in 2011. Now the windows are covered over with paper as the place awaits its next tenant. The stairway that leads to the second floor is piled up with construction materials, too, posing the question: Are the two floors of this property taken together big enough to contain Pastis?
Just around the corner, directly beneath the High Line and beside the bowels of the new Whitney Museum is the new Torrisi project, dubbed Santina which should open January 15. The museum itself might be considered the engine for the success for any new dining establishment, but it will also present some stiff competition for Santina, with Gramercy Tavern chef Michael Anthony now at the helm of Untitled. At the end of last week it was a hive of vigorous activity, and between the concealing sheets of paper could be seen at least 20 employees dressed in white coats and campaign hats scurrying around. Piles of linens lay here and there on-marble topped tables flung helter skelter, and a central kitchen/prep area/market counter visible from the sidewalk seemed to dominate the room.
Plus, there are many other properties ripe to be used as restaurants. For example, the magnificent townhouse that was once 5 Ninth, and before that the ancient tapas bar Rio Mar, has long lay empty. Will the day arrive when the area immediately surrounding the cobbled market area on Gansevoort Street is lined with trendy restaurants?