When Daniel Eddy opened his Park Slope bakery Winner last year, the chef wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He certainly didn’t see the pandemic coming a week later, and in some ways, the lines that form like clockwork in front his bakery most mornings have been as much of a surprise. “We really expected things to slow down at some point,” says general manager Marshall Vickers. But more than a year later, the team is still pasting “sold out” signs to its chalkboard menu.
Buoyed by that success, the former Rebelle chef is going for it again with a restaurant and wine bar located next door to his hit bakery, at 367 Seventh Avenue, near 11th Street, in Park Slope. He’s calling it Runner Up, even though it technically came first.
The wide-reaching menu at Winner includes monkey bread and vegetarian banh mi sandwiches, but Eddy is keeping things “short and sweet” at his restaurant next door, he says. Or at least he’s trying to. In total, there are around two dozen items on an opening menu that seems to have slowly grown over the last month. More than half of those dishes are pantry items — cured meats, cheeses, and baked goods from Winner next door — and smaller, one-bite appetizers that a server likened to canapes.
“Whether people are coming here to have Modelos and a couple snacks or people want to sit down with a four-course meal and phenomenal wines, that’s up to them,” Eddy says of the new spot. Most plates cost between $5 and $15, with the most expensive of them — a tie between the poached trout and the uni toast — priced at $22. Coffee and vanilla soft serve round out the menu.
A two-page, French-leaning wine list has something for everyone with bottles in the $30 and triple-digit price ranges. A half-dozen of them can be ordered by the glass. For beer drinkers, there are $5 cans of Modelo and a tight list of local craft beers.
His menu isn’t overly ambitious, but in some ways Eddy is already bracing for impact. Roughly a fourth of his team was hired in the last month, after Runner Up had already opened its doors, and he’s been quietly opening the restaurant a few nights each week to get his staff up to speed. “We’ve had a couple folks walk up and ask to order food, but that’s about it,” he said in September. These days, there’s already a waiting list.
Aside from a small tab on Winner’s website listing the restaurant’s hours, Eddy has yet to announce Runner Up is even open. He’s been keeping things quiet, in part because his next-door bakery has been so loud.
By the time the rest of the city caught wind of Winner last year, Eddy already had enough fans in the neighborhood that there were half-hour lines up 11th Street most mornings. In addition to its sourdough baguettes and “perfect” rotisserie chickens, the bakery has become known as a stage for up-and-coming chefs, including Connie Chung of Milu and the team behind Rolo’s, who made their first impressions through the bakery’s friends and family meal pop-up series.
The chef has a champagne problem, he realizes: Wherever he goes, customers seem to follow, at least in this quiet corner of Park Slope where even the smell of sold-out bread is enough to turn heads. In part, it’s an issue because Runner Up only has nine outdoor booths to its name, which can seat two to six people each. The likelihood that there won’t be a line for those nine tables, when there’s a block-long one at Winner most mornings, seems low.
When the lines eventually form, customers will submit their orders — while still waiting for a seat — by ticking off items on a menu that resembles a voter’s ballot. The restaurant’s salt cod croquettes, scallop crudo, and other dishes all have boxes next to them on the menu. The idea is to have customers decide on their meals ahead of time, Eddy says, which is helpful when Runner Up’s rotisserie oven can only fit a dozen birds at a time and there might be as many as 50 people seated outside.
Eddy explains all of this while standing in a backwards hat and blue denim apron in front of Runner Up on a warm afternoon in September. He had set up a few tables outside of the restaurant to train his staff, even though, “we don’t normally do that during the day,” he explains. Now it’s too late to undo it because three groups of customers have hunkered down with sandwiches from next door. Nearby, a line has started to form in front of Winner.
“I want people to think of this as a bar,” Eddy says of the new spot. Or in other words, he doesn’t want people to think of it as a full-blown restaurant, despite him standing in a kitchen that’s been churning out rotisserie chickens, poached fish, and a handful of tweezer-constructed dishes over the past month. “I’m thinking of this as a place where people can crush a few glasses of wine and order a some good food to share,” he says. It sounds simple enough, but in the end, it might not be up to him.
Runner Up, the chef’s sophomore project, is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 5 to 9 p.m. for now. No reservations.