— Austin, Texas import VERTS Mediterranean Grill opens tomorrow which will be the first New York location. The fast-casual spot at 24 E. 23rd St. will offer pitas, bowls, and salads with variations of lean meats, vegetables, and housemade sauces. CEOs Michael Heyne and Dominik Stein have opened 25 restaurants and raised $35 million in funding in five years, with plans to open 200 by 2020. All day Friday, the shop will offer all guests one free, full-size entrée, in addition to swag bags.
— Pretty Southern starts lunch service today, the new restaurant from chef Sam Talbot of Montauk’s Surf Lodge that opened at 14 Bedford Ave. in Greenpoint last month. Look for fried and roast chicken, biscuits, slaw, sauces, and sides like green bean casserole and corn bread pudding.
— DRINK has opened in Times Square at the American Eagle Outfitters flagship (1551-1555 Broadway), featuring a menu of coffee, tea, slushies, and sodas from super small-batch outfits. The opening menu lists coffee from Bushwick’s Supercrown Coffee Roasters, tea from Charleston, S.C.-based Oliver Pluff & Co., hot chocolate from Silly Cow Farms in Vermont, cider from Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY, and chai from Bhakti Chai in Boulder, Colo. — and so on.
— De Maria at 19 Kenmare in the former Ken & Cook space is allegedly opening this weekend, helmed by Grace Lee and Season Three “Top Chef “contestant, Camille Becerra, executive chef. Becerra has been cooking at 50-seat basement lounge, The Lo.
— South Korean import, Caffe Bene is opening a shop at 378 Canal St. while the spot on Avenue A at 13th Street will re-open with an expanded menu soon. With 1600 locations, the coffee shop is expanding its U.S. reach. Another South Korean-based company, Paris Baguette, will open new branches in Rego Park by February and Forest Hills later this year.
— The Post’s Steve Cuozzo raves about the overhauled Chumley’s, Alessandro Borgognone’s spot that’s “pricier, a lot prettier but a bit precious,” yet it’s “hard not to love.” He praises chef Victoria Blamey’s “marvelous” king salmon and calls fried chicken with pickled black trumpet mushrooms “ragingly delicious.” As for the drinks, “In a town of over-ambitious, underachieving ‘beverage programs,’ Chumley’s is truly an educated drinker’s paradise.”
— Here’s how Michael White — restaurateur behind Marea, Ai Fiori, Vaucluse, and others— lost over 130 pounds.
— This weekend it’s a vegan shop-up at Pine Box Rock Shop (12 Grattan St.) in Bushwick from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Look for tacos, sandwiches, macarons, burgers, mac ‘n cheese and tarts at this all-vegan affair.
— Get this dish. A recommendation from Eater reporter, Patty Diez: “A lot of mornings (and evenings) I'll convince myself that all I want to eat are eggs. But what I really want are eggs from Buvette. The eggs at this Grove Street charmer are cooked with the steam wand of an espresso machine and they are perfect: soft, salty, peppery. My go-to is an order of eggs with prosciutto, but if they are offering caviar and creme fraiche, get it.”
— Are these the weirdest cocktails in New York?