More details are now out on how Queer Eye’s food guy Antoni Porowski plans to prove to the world that he really can cook at his fast-casual West Village restaurant opening on Monday: with a gluten-, soy-, and red meat-free menu, inspired by exercise.
Village Den is Porowski’s first avocado-filled step off the small screen since the show, where despite its wildly successful debut, he gained a bit of a reputation for cooking basic meals like chili and mac and cheese, so much so that people have questioned his ability to even cook. There have been several breathless defenses against that, but this restaurant will be his real-life proving ground.
The former classic diner has been transformed into a sleek space that was inspired by working out, which is no surprise considering its owners. Beyond Porowski using absolutely any opportunity to take his clothes off, co-owners Eric Marx and Lisle Richards — who own clubby venues like Gilded Lily — love to tout their gym prowess, too: Marx is a fan of SoulCycle when hungover and Richards jumps ropes on boats.
The trio met when Porowski would frequent their restaurant the Wayfarer post-working out. Rather than just go somewhere that serves healthier food, he and his friends would ask the restaurant to make them special items that weren’t on the “more decadent” menu, such as grilled fish with roasted Brussels sprouts.
“We decided it would be great to have a place with food we really love that makes you feel good after eating it, and you don’t, like, fall into a carb coma,” Porowski tells Eater.com. “The Den is really an expression of the kind of food that I want to eat during the week. There are a lot of vegetables and fruit and that sort of stuff. And it’s a lot of protein, so definitely lighter meats.”
Dishes on the menu include almond and walnut pancakes, almond Caesar salad, smoothies, stuffed cabbage with pine nuts, and macadamia-crusted fish sticks. After a lot of soul searching, Porowski decided to include an avocado toast, too, despite his constant association with the trendy fruit after the show. A paid cauliflower lover, Porowski also included honey-roasted turkey meatballs over cauliflower rice.
If the restaurant sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Dig Inn, Muscle Maker Grill, Sweetgreen, and By Chloe are just a few fast-casual restaurants in New York City offering more virtuous foods en masse. Now, Village Den — a former classic diner in the neighborhood — joins that genre come next Monday, October 1.
Porowski is throwing his star power behind this opening, posting frequently about it on his social media channels. He also tells Eater that he recognizes that “most restaurants don’t make it, so the odds are really against you.”
Indeed, a total of 10 fellow celebrity chefs that have opened restaurants recently in NYC have not fared well. Cat Cora, Scott Conant, Carla Hall, Jose Garces, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Anne Burrell, Marc Murphy, Sam Talbot, and Marcus Samuelsson all have closed their NYC restaurants in the last year.
But Porowski is banking on Marx and Richards’ operational experience at their restaurants that also includes the Monarch Room. “They know what operations are like, whereas with me, I just came in for menu development, and I came in as a home cook,” Porowski says.
Village Den opens on Monday.