After a year of delays, Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm will finally open their fast-casual restaurant Made Nice next week — the first time diners can order food from the fine dining restaurateurs for as little as $11. They’re shooting for an opening on April 24.
It’s been one of the most watched projects in the last year partly because it mirrors casual models like Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack that have seen wild success. But it will also be more scrutinized after their restaurant Eleven Madison Park landed the “World’s Best” title this year. Like most restaurants on the influential World’s 50 Best list, Eleven Madison Park is incredibly upscale and expensive. An eight-course dinner for one costs $295. Made Nice, on the other hand, will offer dishes ranging from $11 to $15.
Despite the discounted price at Made Nice, the restaurant’s general manager Kirk Kelewae and chef Danny DiStefano — both eight-year alums of EMP — want to conjure the essence and spirit of EMP and more casual sister restaurant The Nomad. Each order displays a myriad of colorful, layered ingredients, which Kelewae and DiStefano call “composed plated dishes.” Unlike the current fast-casual trend of using bowls, Made Nice serves the entree-sized portions on plates, specifically so that they can make the meals look as beautiful as their finer-dining counterparts, DiStefano says.
“First and foremost, food has to be delicious. But after that, we eat with our eyes,” he says. “When something is beautiful, it tastes better right off the bat. That was something very important for us to maintain.”
The menu similarly takes inspiration from the most significant dishes at Made Nice’s more upscale sisters. Take the $11 curry cauliflower dish. A hallmark curry and roasted cauliflower dish from EMP has appeared in different forms throughout the years, previously featuring a date puree to add sweetness and toasted almonds for nuttiness. It’s plated artfully for the tasting menu format.
Made Nice displays similar flavors in a roasted cauliflower dish with a coconut lemongrass curry, grapes, and almonds. To turn it into a more substantive entree-sized portion, it arrives on a bed of couscous with raisins. It also happens to be vegan, an aspect that gives those with dietary restrictions an option on the menu.
The EMP crew will also attempt to interpret its signature effusive hospitality for the fast-casual format, Kelewae says. He plans to greet people as they come in the door, acting as a maitre d’. People will immediately have menus to look at as they wait in line. Two “counter servers,” which is what Made Nice calls cashiers, will be standing with iPads at the front taking orders. (They will only take credit card, no cash.) They will not be behind a counter as they are at a traditional fast food restaurant — a decision intended to make the experience of ordering “feel intimate,” Kelewae says. “The idea is that the order is a conversation versus a transaction,” he says.
Diners pick up their food when their names are called, which they’ll either eat in the 34-seat dining room or they’ll take it to to-go in colorful bags with recipes printed on the side. Made Nice is aiming to deliver food within five minutes of an order.
- The dining room of Made Nice has a mural by artist Shepard Fairey and is designed by firm Stonehill & Taylor
- Diners wait in a line when they first enter the restaurant
- “Counter servers” will stand on either side of this counter to take orders
- The open kitchen at Made Nice is the restaurant’s “identity,” Keweale says
- People pick up meals after hearing their name called
- A full look at the Shepard Fairey mural
- Chef Danny DiStefano and general manager Kirk Kelewae
Made Nice is a “distillation of who we are and our identity,” Kelewae says. The former EMP general manager, along with former EMP sous chef DiStefano, wanted to be a part of the new fast-casual project so that they could reach more people. People might visit EMP once in a lifetime, and they might visit The Nomad once a year, Kelewae says. To them, Made Nice is the next step — their version of a restaurant that people can visit every day.
“When we talk about it, it’s us. It’s what we love. It’s what we want to cook; it’s how we want to serve it,” Kelewae says. “We know we love to make people happy and this is how we know how to do it.”
Take a look at how select EMP dishes translated to the menu below.
The flavor combination of cured fish, pickled onions, cucumbers, and radishes is something that the EMP team has used before, DiStefano says, specifically in a pretty dramatic presentation at Eleven Madison Park. Sturgeon, caviar, and radishes arrive to the table under a glass dome filled with smoke. “It’s extravagant and luxurious,” he says.
At Made Nice, Humm and DiStefano created what’s essentially an appetizing salad to make use of the same ingredients, sans caviar. The frisee salad comes with smoked salmon, soft boiled egg, cucumber, radish, pickled onions, and a buttermilk vinaigrette. As an homage to Humm’s Swiss background, rosti — a Swiss shredded potato dish — serve as croutons in a $15 dish.
Pork ‘n Carrots
Over the years, Eleven Madison Park has served many versions of a pork dish, for which a whole confit suckling pig is placed back into the skin and cooked until it’s crispy. It’s served as a little rectangle with swathes of tart accompaniments like plum chutney. “It’s a very technical, intricate process,” DiStefano says.
The Made Nice version uses a slow-roasted pork butt that’s shredded and then formed into a square with its own fat and sherry vinegar. It’s seared to get a crisp edge. It turns into a full meal with the addition of whole roasted carrots and a grain salad. Baby kale was added at the end partly because it fit with the dish but also as a garnish. It costs $14.
Milk and Honey
One of Eleven Madison Park and The Nomad’s most iconic desserts includes milk and honey. “In the eight years I’ve been with the company, it has never left the menu,” DiStefano says. “It’s a staple. It’s a childhood memory for chef [Humm].” At the more formal restaurants, the flavors come as a plated dessert, usually with added texture from meringue and shortbread and a kick of saltiness from buckwheat honey. The interpretation of the dish in the casual setting is soft serve. It’s the only dessert at Made Nice, and the $6 treat comes in a little cup, with the other aspects of the dish used as toppings.
All the sodas at Made Nice are on tap and house made with fresh juice and seasoned “like you would a soup or a stock,” DiStefano says. They’re also low sugar. One called “Dr. Green’s” is made with apple, celery, and mint, while another one called “Citrus Crush” is made with orange, grapefruit, and yuzu juice.
“The food is composed by chefs who are making the type of food that they would want to eat,” DiStefano says. “It’s using all the techniques we’ve learned over the last however many years of cooking. We’re trying to preserve that restaurant element.”