Dan Kluger, the celebrated chef behind Loring Place in Greenwich Village, is set to open his long-awaited second restaurant this week. A nod to the foods that Kluger grew up eating in American diners and at his kitchen table, Penny Bridge is the latest addition to the flashy Jacx mega-development in Long Island City, whose nearby food hall is home to businesses from popular chef JJ Johnson and pastry star Ghaya Oliveira.
Penny Bridge is a step in a new direction for Kluger, if not in terms of its menu then at least in its appearance. Loring Place, with its seasonal approach to American fare, is nestled on a cozy street in Greenwich Village, while the new restaurant sits across from a City Acres Market in a high-ceilinged corner of the Jacx development. If any charm is lost at the new location, though, Kluger plans to make up for it with his menu of reimagined diner classics and childhood favorites. “I don’t love this word,” the chef explains with some chagrin, “but I’m trying to be more playful.”
Channeling the menus of casual American dining fixtures like Houlihan’s, Houston’s, and TGI Friday’s, Kluger is serving what he calls “seasonal American comfort food,” a label that includes mozzarella sticks and baked clams, but also crispy delicata squash rings and endive Caesar salads. The menu also includes dishes that are closer to heart for the chef: His filet mignon with sweet and spicy ketchup is adapted from a turkey and spinach meatloaf that Kluger’s father made as a way to “eat healthier” after suffering a heart attack and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery, the chef says.
A few hits from Loring Place have also made their way to Long Island City, including versions of the restaurant’s crowd-pleasing square pizzas and cheeseburgers, the latter of which will be topped with fried onion rings and thousand island dressing at Penny Bridge.
Penny Bridge will only be available for takeout and delivery when the restaurant opens on January 22. The restaurant’s spacious dining room, which is outfitted with banquettes, cement columns, and floor-to-ceiling windows, will remain closed until the city reopens for indoor dining, while Kluger has decided to hold off on outdoor dining until the spring. “It breaks my heart. We spent all this time and effort and money on this restaurant and the first impression [customers] get of it is takeout,” he says, “but I think we’ll do a good job.”
For the opening of Penny Bridge, Kluger is relaxing some of the rules he imposed on himself at his first restaurant. At the hyper-seasonal Loring Place, the chef has vowed not to use produce that’s out of season, a rule he’s making exceptions for at the new restaurant. “I’m not holding myself over the fire anymore,” according to Kluger. “If it’s not the time to use bell peppers but it works for the dish, we’re gonna use them. I needed more freedom in that respect.”
Still, much of the produce used at Penny Bridge is sourced from the city’s farmers markets, which have continued to operate during the coronavirus pandemic, while Kluger insists that his menu of American comfort foods is indeed “seasonal.”
Kluger first made a name for himself in the kitchens of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina, leading the former restaurant to a James Beard Award in 2011. The chef departed from the restaurants in the summer of 2014 to prepare for the opening of Loring Place, which debuted in 2016. A few months after opening, the restaurant garnered praise from New York Times critic Pete Wells, who found much to like about the restaurant’s burgers, whole-wheat pizzas, and seasonal American fare in his two-star review.
Long before the Jacx development opened its doors, Kluger had announced plans to open a then-unnamed second restaurant in Long Island City. The restaurant, which is separate from the development’s talent-packed food hall that opened earlier this year, was originally slated to open as a full-service restaurant in spring 2020.
Penny Bridge is open for takeout and delivery Wednesday to Saturday from 12 to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 8 p.m.