Longstanding Williamsburg breakfast hotspot Egg will be permanently shutting down at the end of the month, owner George Weld has announced. The restaurant will serve its last meals on September 27.
Weld tells Eater that the shutdown was “partly a financial decision, and partly a concern for public health and the health of our staff.”
The restaurant has been doing takeout and delivery, plus outdoor dining, for the past several months. While takeout and delivery has gone “better than expected,” Weld says, it still only accounted for about 25 percent of Egg’s regular revenue. For outdoor dining, the restaurant was only able to set up four tables outside due to the location’s small street frontage area.
And even though indoor dining is set to return at 25 percent capacity on September 30, Weld didn’t feel that it was a viable option for the restaurant. The revenue generated from operating service at 25 percent capacity “wasn’t going to help us break even,” Weld says, and he was concerned about the greater health safety risk that indoor dining imposed.
“Even if we got great [rent] concessions from our landlord, it would still be a huge struggle,” Weld says. “We could either try to ease through this winter with a slow bleed or make a clean break now and rethink what we are doing.”
Though the restaurant started as a pop up, when it finally went brick and mortar, Egg quickly became a Williamsburg fixture. The restaurant had several imitators in various parts of town, but none could quite match Egg’s pugnacious attitude or quirky menu.
Its cavernous premises on North 3rd Street just off Bedford Ave. featured starkly painted white bricks, white tables, and a seating area deep inside. It was a quintessential breakfast spot, and the food here had Southern flourishes, inspired by Virginia and the Low Country, according to its website. Egg proudly flaunted its ingredients, including Anson Mills grits from South Carolina and Newsom country ham from Kentucky, and it sourced many of its other fixin’s locally from farmers’ markets and the restaurant’s upstate farm.
Though the menu had been pared down for the pandemic, it still featured fried chicken biscuits, pimento cheese, and heirloom tomato sandwiches, but its earlier, more eclectic menu provided many surprises. The chorizo and egg sandwich, available all day, was a particular favorite, sided with perfect fries and washed down with coffee, tendered with frequent refills. Another highlight was eggs Rothko, named after Mark Rothko, an American color-field painter from the middle of the last century. It consisted of a runny egg on toasted brioche smothered in Grafton cheddar.
In the future, Weld hopes to bring back a new iteration of Egg that is more equitable and sustainable for its staff. Weld has been trying for awhile to bring up kitchen staff wages in the restaurant, he says, but in order to pay line cooks at least $45,000 per year at the current version of Egg, Weld would have had to raise prices by at least 50 percent on the menu.
“It feels like what we really want and what this moment can absorb are really far apart,” Weld says.
Weld plans to spend “the next few months” working on a new restaurant model for Egg that is better equipped to pay staff more. It may materialize as a more retail or takeout-friendly spot, although no firm plans have been set yet. The restaurant’s two Tokyo locations, plus the upstate farm where Weld lives and grows produce to supply to the restaurant, remain open.