Back Forty West, the Soho restaurant from New York seasonal food pioneer chef Peter Hoffman, will be replaced by fast casual lunch chain Dig Inn after it closes on Saturday, Dig Inn announced. New York-based Dig Inn, which bills itself as a "farm-to-counter" enterprise, will be opening an all-day version of the restaurant in the two-story, corner space, says CEO Adam Eskin — similar to a new, larger outpost of the chain in Boston. It’s part of a larger expansion in New York and beyond; the chain plans to open at least five more locations in the New York City area in the next six months, plus a farm upstate.
Taking over Hoffman’s old space in particular is significant for Dig Inn, Eskin says. Culinary director Matt Weingarten used to work at Savoy, Hoffman’s first restaurant in the space. The fast casual company also prides itself on seasonality and sustainability, and Hoffman’s contributions to the farm-to-table movement make the location particularly special, Eskin says. "It’s a really historic corner, not just from a beautiful architectural landmark, brick building in Soho, but for what it means and what it stands for in the broader context of this food movement," he says.
Dig Inn will likely open in Back Forty West’s former digs at some point next year, after a redesign inspired by firm ASH NYC's work on the Dig Inn in Boston. Though the restaurant is known for its cafeteria-style operations, the new location will offer some table service in addition to an ordering counter, such as servers refilling drinks and busing tables. Beer and wine will be served at night and on weekends, and breakfast and weekend brunch will be offered. It will look and feel similar to the Boston location, whose breakfast menu includes dishes like avocado toast, egg sandwiches, and quinoa waffles.
It’s all part of Dig Inn’s aggressive expansion plan. By spring of next year, the chain will have outposts on the Upper East Side, Midtown west, the Garment District, DUMBO, and in Westchester. It’s also planning two more locations in Boston and a farm in upstate New York that will primarily function as training for its chefs. (Training internal talent is Dig Inn’s way of solving the cook shortage crisis, Eskin explains.) Locations in more residential neighborhoods like the Upper East Side and West Village will likely be more cafe-like, with room and a menu for breakfast meetings, while others will still be mostly counter-service style restaurants.
But with the company taking over Back Forty West, expect Dig Inn locations to aim to be slightly more than upscale cafeteria counters. "To take the space that has such a large role in starting that movement and turn it into one of our own and hopefully do it justice — that’s really rewarding," Eskin says. "We’re really excited about being able to do that."