White Gold, the newest restaurant and butcher shop from The Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, is ready to bring its open whole animal butchering process and simple meat-focused dishes to the Upper West Side. Bloomfield and Friedman may be known for their popular restaurants, including The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar, but White Gold’s focus is just as much the butcher shop. Butchers Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest are co-owners in the project, and the doors open on Wednesday. The butcher shop will debut first. And in that, it’s unlike anything else that the hit-making team’s known for.
For one, it’s more casual. During the day, the restaurant portion is a blend of counter service and full-service, where rotisserie chicken, breakfast sandwiches, and house-made cold cut sandwiches inspired by classic bodega fare are ordered at the butcher counter and then delivered to tables. It will offer plenty of to-go options, like a variety of English-style pasties — expect root vegetables, beef short rib, skirt steak, or cheese and potato as fillings. They’re even catering to kids. The shop will have a "hot dog happy hour" around when school lets out — a way for kids to grab and go an afternoon snack. Besides the prepared food, the butcher shop will be selling meat for home cooking, pickles, chili relish, kombucha, bone broths, coffee, and more.
A host will come in at dinner time, though the vibe for the 38-seat restaurant still be relatively casual. The slim menu will offer about five options in each category (appetizers, snacks, entrees), and the dishes will be simple and "meats-and-potato" style, Bloomfield says. Cuts of meat from the butcher shop that may be difficult for the home cook will be incorporated in entrees at dinner, like a velvet steak, a lean cut of meat from near the cow’s knee. "It’s going to be a fun, casual accessible place to come and just eat," Bloomfield says.
In one week, they received about ten steer, five lambs, six to eight pigs, and "a whole mess of chickens."
For two, people will be able to see the meat they eat before it’s cooked. The butcher portion isn’t separated from the restaurant. Anyone sitting down for a meal can get a decent view of bright glass meat case, all culled from whole animals delivered to White Gold regularly. (In one week, they received about ten steer, five lambs, six to eight pigs, and "a whole mess of chickens," Nakamura says.) Nakamura and Guest will be breaking down the animals and blending sausages all day, often in view of customers. "You can see some of that action right when you walk up to the counter," Guest says. "That’s something we thought was important. It’s a matter of transparency."
It’s that idea of transparency that drove Bloomfield to the idea of opening a butcher shop in the first place. In her ideal world, she’d have a farm upstate, too, where she could oversee the process of her famous burgers from the literal beginning to end. But having a butcher is the first step before the farm to gain another level of control over what’s served in her restaurants. Besides serving the meat in the new Upper West Side restaurant, White Gold will be supplying the burger blends for the Ace Hotel, The Spotted Pig, the Breslin, and Salvation Burger, when it reopens in a few weeks. "Without sounding too negative, sometimes when people get too big, they cut corners," Bloomfield says. "I want to make sure that’s not where I’m going, or where we’re going."
She’d been thinking about it for years when she met Nakamura in LA, where the butcher was working at hip meat shop Lindy and Grundy. Friedman and Bloomfield had been looking for spaces for a while — eight years ago, they even eyed the space that’s now home to Joanne, the Italian restaurant best known as Lady Gaga’s dad’s restaurant — and eventually, Bloomfield realized she couldn’t do the butcher shop alone. When Nakamura moved to New York, it made sense to partner up. Bloomfield and Friedman deal with the restaurant, and Nakamura and Guest handle the butcher shop.
"If it doesn’t work, it will probably be because we tried to bite off more than we can chew. But I think it makes it kind of fun."
It’s a totally new thing for the Bloomfield-Friedman team. If restaurants are albums, White Gold is the "concept album," says Friedman, who worked in music before opening restaurants. It’s ambitious and collaborative and different from any of their other restaurants, he says. "If we played it safe, which sometimes I think we should, we should just open a whole bunch of Spotted Pigs," he says. "I don’t think [Bloomfield] wants to do that, and I didn’t want to do that. ...If it doesn’t work, it will probably be because we tried to bite off more than we can chew. But I think it makes it kind of fun." White Gold’s butcher shop opens on Wednesday, Oct. 26, with retail, rotisserie chickens, and hot dogs, and the restaurant opens on Tuesday, Nov. 1, for three meals a day.