An all-bacon restaurant with a subterranean karaoke bar opens today in Williamsburg, contributing to the neighborhood’s increasingly slick dining scene. Called Belly, the casual new restaurant debuts at 219 Grand Street from first-time restaurateurs Phillip Cho and Anna Lee.
Cho and Lee, who are both Korean with marketing backgrounds, had been hosting Korean-centric pork belly dinners for their friends for years, talking about opening their own place, when earlier this year they decided to commit. The duo brought on Todd English-trained executive chef Brian Crawford to create what they’re trendily calling the “bacon omakase” (that marketing background put to good use).
“We’re all Korean and grew up eating Korean food, so we initially focused on that. But Brian is Caucasian and married to a Chinese lady,” Cho says, “so we have a lot of diverse backgrounds and inspiration.”
The result is a nine-course, $45 tasting menu with dishes like pork belly carpaccio, pork belly schnitzel, and linguine with pork belly sausage in a creamy kimchi sauce. The opening tasting menu is in full below, and there are also a la carte options, like a pork belly wrap at lunch. Breakfast will come soon.
Hell’s Kitchen has already had Bar Bacon for over three years now, but Cho feels confident that Belly has enough to offer, despite that bacon’s trend arc has been playing out. “It is a saturated market, but we have a new take. There are so many flavors and ways to cook pork in Korean traditional food, not just the American way,” he says. “We wanted to show off that side — that there’s a more faceted aspect of pork and it's not just a guilty pleasure.”
Cho and Lee wanted a very casual space. “One of the problems we all first saw in the restaurant business is that a lot of people are busy trying to put the food and their reputation on a pedestal,” Cho says. The reaction to that here is picnic-style tables and chairs, plus Beats, a downstairs 12-room karaoke bar that’s BYOB and opens at 2 p.m. daily. “This used to be a karaoke bar, so we thought, ‘Why not?’” he says.
Belly, including its karaoke bar and takeout window, is now open weekdays from 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. and weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. Starting July 24, hours will be 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily.