The brothers behind the Blue Ribbon restaurant empire will be shutting the doors of West Village standard Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen this fall. Eric Bromberg tells Eater that after nearly 20 years at 35 Downing St., he and his brother Bruce must leave the space that houses a nearly 150-year-old wood fired oven. The bakery and restaurant will close at the end of November, a result of the lease ending. Bromberg declined to specify what happened with the landlord, only noting that the relationship ultimately had to end. "It’s a hard thing emotionally for us," he says. "It’s carried our heart and soul for a long time."
The restaurant first opened in 1997 after the Blue Ribbon team spent close to two years restoring the oven. A longtime bartender lived in the building, and after it caught fire, he suggested it to the Brombergs as a space for a coffee shop. When they walked underground, they found the oven, which hadn’t been used in years. "It’s hard to even put into words how exhilarating and exciting it was, and still is," Eric Bromberg says. "It’s a special, special thing." They removed thousands of pounds of debris and rubble in the process of bringing it back to life. "We took it on as much as a historical restoration and archeological project as anything else," he says.
Blue Ribbon Bakery eventually became known for its accessible American food, including its fried chicken and bone marrow. It also made a slew of breads like matzoh, rye, and challah out of the oven, which is in view to diners and customers. The Brombergs won’t be trying to recreate the restaurant elsewhere, considering the importance of the historic oven in the restaurant. All the employees will be offered jobs at Blue Ribbon’s 19 other restaurants, including a new one opening in FiDi later this year. They’ll be planning more special events at Bakery before the opening, but mostly, Bromberg hopes that people will come to check out the oven before the closure. "It’s such an extraordinary piece of New York history," he says.