The team behind 886 — the East Village restaurant known for its playful spin on Taiwanese fare — is opening a new restaurant in Greenpoint. Chef and co-owner Eric Sze made the announcement on Instagram on Monday, writing in his post that “restaurants are here to stay; it is one of the many ways our society glues itself together.”
The new restaurant, located at 1025 Manhattan Avenue, near Green Street, will be similar to 886, but will be modeled more on “a Taiwanese grandma’s home,” Sze tells Eater. The focus will be homey Taiwanese fare and the menu will be “pretty noodle driven,” says Sze, and will also include dishes like whole steamed fish, and other shareable plates that the chef is still finalizing.
Taiwanese cocktail veterans GN Chan and Faye Chen — of the traveling bar and now permanent spot Double Chicken Please — will consult on the bar menu, says Sze.
The restaurant will seat about 50 people once construction work is finished in the next few months, and there will be additional backyard seating. Sze is targeting a spring 2021 opening, but says the opening may get delayed due to the pandemic.
Sze says he had been planning to open a second location of 886 prior to the pandemic-related shutdown in March and had scouted a spot in Long Island City. That location eventually fell through, but Sze discovered the storefront in Greenpoint while on a walk in the neighborhood in June. He says he was able to work up a favorable rent agreement with the landlord, a big part of why he’s decided to go ahead with the opening plans.
“I definitely thought to myself what kind of an idiot would open a restaurant during this time,” says Sze. “But I’m betting that things will get better. I’m making an investment in New York. And if it fails? F—k it. At least I tried”
886 debuted in the East Village in the summer of 2018, and was part of a wave of new restaurants showcasing the depth of Taiwanese food including Win Son, Ho Foods, and Happy Stony Noodle. 886 has quickly established a reputation for its irreverent takes on Taiwanese food including the restaurant’s fried chicken sandwich, which is inspired by its equivalent on the McDonald’s menu in Taiwan; the sticky rice-wrapped pork sausage; and its array of small plates including the sweet potato fries topped with plum powder.
The Taiwanese restaurant was among the first in the city this year to begin a donation program to serve meals to hospital workers as the coronavirus pandemic was raging in March. The restaurant kept that program going for months, while remaining closed to diners for the most part. It gradually opened with outdoor dining over the summer before opening seven days a week in September. While the restaurant recently debuted Taiwanese beef hot pot on its menu, indoor dining is still not an option. Sze says he’s not comfortable opening his dining room due to safety concerns.
Instead, Sze has made a big push on the retail side. Sales from the restaurant’s Sze Daddy chile sauce helped pay rent last month, Sze says, and in the coming weeks he plans to introduce soup kits and housemade Taiwanese sausages for delivery, along with selling restaurant merchandize online. Sze says he’s already pivoted his restaurant multiple times this year and is prepared to do so again to stay afloat.
“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards,” he says.