In some ways, Daniel Eddy had perfect timing. The chef is most recently known for his time at the now-closed Rebelle, a Michelin-starred French restaurant on the LES that was both an industry favorite and a finer dining destination. But for his next act, he had already decided to do something in his own neighborhood of Park Slope: a bakery, plus a much smaller next-door wine bar.
Winner Cafe and Bakery opened at 367 7th Avenue, at 11th Street in March, and as he intended, locals immediately took to it. Word spread quickly, and pretty soon, some people were waiting in line for a good half-hour for sourdough bread, baguettes, croissants, cinnamon rolls, and scones. Of course, the novel coronavirus pandemic hit right after he opened. That timing wasn’t so great; there were logistical headaches, and service started off slower than he wanted.
But in a time when more New Yorkers are staying in their neighborhoods and looking to small businesses for food, Eddy oddly didn’t have to pivot at all from what he’d originally planned, he says. He lives six blocks from the restaurant, and he never needed anybody but the immediate residents to go for it.
“This business is really built for the community; this not something that I’ve blocked off for all of NYC,” Eddy says. “It’s a bakery. Places that do their own thing, they strike a chord. It’s a loaf of bread. When you revisit what good bread is, it’s a reminder of ‘Oh my goodness, I forgot that that’s the reaction [bread] is supposed to elicit.’”
For the project, he’s working with Ali Spahr, who opened Walnut Street cafe with him, to run pastry and Kevin Bruce, formerly at Great Northern Food Hall, to head up bread. Over the last three months, they’ve slowly ramped up production, selling pastries in the mornings and fresh bread throughout the day on a specific schedule through a takeout window on 11th Street. A tight list of sandwiches comes on for lunch, like a BLT on ciabatta and a caprese on a baguette. They sell out regularly, by design. More items might come on the menu, but Eddy will likely keep it short to limit waste so that they can sell fresh breads and croissants each day.
Though Winner wasn’t born out of the pandemic, its focus as a daytime business has led to flexibility in the evening. Eddy was always planning to use dinner as a way to cater to the families in the neighborhood with $15 set-meals, and now with many friends in the restaurant industry out of work, some of the city’s most seasoned chefs have been popping up in the space for a rotating family meal series. Since it started, Connie Chung of Eleven Madison Park’s Make It Nice Group has cooked Chinese food, Melissa Weller of High Street on Hudson has made pizza, and Eugenio Plaja of Barbuto has offered rigatoni. Amy Yi, once at Westbourne and Upland, also has an ongoing weekend Korean food menu, cheekily called K-Pop. Each week, Winner announces the next guest chef on Instagram.
Further down the line, Eddy’s plan is to turn a nearby carriage house into small wine bar and dinner spot with fewer than 18 seats, and to use the Winner space for private events and chef dinners in the evening. For now, though, he’s happy to keep an eclectic lineup of friends working at the restaurant.
“To have that diversity is phenomenal, to have a business that doesn’t have one sole identity,” he says. “There’s nothing I dislike more than being put into a box. I want this to be recognized as just being good. Then people can trust that it will just be good.”