Have you ever seen a house cut in half? Austin Johnson, the Michelin-starred chef behind One White Street in Tribeca, might be the closest thing New York has to an expert on houses cut in half. In fact, hanging in the first floor dining room of the soon-to-open restaurant, there’s a photograph of one, a 1973 work by Gordon Matta-Clark, in which the late artist vertically bisected a two-story New Jersey home using nothing more than a handheld chainsaw. The incisions, which reportedly took more than three months, left the house standing.
The photograph is technically a negative of the original work, but it’s a testament to what it takes it to deconstruct a building from the inside out. Johnson would know. One White Street, named after its historic Tribeca address, has been in the works for more than two years, during which time owner Dustin Wilson, a former wine director of Eleven Madison Park, and Johnson, a former chef at the one-Michelin-star Frenchie in Paris, have been transforming a residential four-story townhouse into a three-story commercial restaurant and wine bar.
One White Street, which opens on August 5, is a house divided “into nine-hundred thousand” pieces, he says. “I wish cutting this building in half is all we had to do.”
Laid across three stories, One White Street is structured like a well-manicured mullet: Business on the upper two floors, with a bit more party the lower one goes. Most visitors’ first impression of the restaurant will occur on the more casual first floor, a 25-seat wine bar with stool seating and wrap-around banquettes. When the weather cooperates, floor-to-ceiling windows will open onto West Broadway.
“It’s going to be a sleeves rolled up, tattoos showing kind of vibe,” general manager Jacqueline Westbrook says of the space. Or in the case of Johnson, he cooks in the kitchen with an ear piercing in the shape of a French bull dog.
The menu changes regularly, but a list of dishes in the works includes scallop skewers, glazed gnocchi with sweet corn, and an in-season baby gem salad. Upstairs, customers might order multi-course tasting menus or leaf through from a small tome of 400 wines, but in the confines of this 560-square-foot-space, the goal is for diners to be able to order seasonal dishes and glasses of wines “without breaking their budgets,” Westbrook says.
Wines are priced between $15 to $35 a glass, while most dishes on the first floor to cost between $10 and $50. The first floor menu is also available outdoors, in an air-conditioned, 18-seat set-up in front of the restaurant along White Street.
One White Street is the breakout restaurant from Wilson, a partner behind Tribeca wine shop Verve and a master sommelier who oversaw the wine program at Eleven Madison Park from 2011 to 2015. He wanted to open a restaurant that could be a serious destination for wine and seasonal cooking, without taking itself too seriously. In addition to Johnson, Wilson has brought on pastry chef Ileene Cho and sommelier Audrey Frick, an editor for acclaimed wine critic Jeb Dunnuck who will curate the restaurant’s wine list.
On the second and third floors of the restaurant, Johnson will serve a tasting menu from two open-air kitchens. The six-course, $148 menu is the same across both floors and leans heavily on seasonal produce, some of which is sourced from Rigor Hill Farm upstate. The Hudson Valley farm, located on the hayfield of one of the restaurant’s investors is 10 acres, two of which will be used each year to grow produce exclusively for the restaurant.
Two acres isn’t enough to supply the whole restaurant year-round, but at peak summer production, farm manager Danny Morales estimates that the farm is capable of producing as much as 800 to 1,000 pounds of produce. In-season ingredients — including husk cherries, cherry tomatoes, scapes, and cucumbers — could account for as much as 30 to 50 percent of the restaurant’s produce during that time, Westbrook estimates.
In some ways, a three-story, custom farm-backed restaurant can feel like a lot of fuss, but it’s a fitting next chapter for the storied, century-old townhouse at 1 White Street. The landmarked building has changed shapes and hands over the years: It was once a multi-million dollar townhouse; then, John Lennon and Yoko Ono turned the building into a “country” of its own; and briefly, during the pandemic, the basement was flooded to the point of resembling a boat slip. “The basement could have fit a houseboat for a year, that’s how much water there was down there,” Johnson says.
One White Street in its latest form opens later this month. The first floor and outdoor dining rooms are open for walk-in seating, Sunday to Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. The second and third floors of the restaurant are available by reservation, Sunday to Thursday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11 p.m.