Jeepney, the trailblazing restaurant from restaurateur Nicole Ponseca, will end its nine-year run in the East Village this month. The Filipino gastropub will close its doors on September 25 as Ponseca prepares to expand the restaurant in a big way. “I want to graduate from being an independent operator into something more formidable with more support,” she says. “I don’t want this to be the end of Jeepney.”
In the short term, that means Ponseca is saying farewell to her storefront at 201 First Avenue, Jeepney’s home for the last decade and the restaurateur’s last brick-and-mortar business in New York City. The restaurateur hopes to partner with a restaurant group to open a more casual version of her pioneering restaurant in multiple cities, including the possibility of New York, similar to her expansion in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami earlier this year.
“I would like to see Jeepney grow into that,” she says. “It’s a hybrid of something that is fast-casual and something that is fine-casual. I call it fast-fancy.”
Ponseca opened Jeepney in 2012 as a follow-up to Maharlika, a Filipino restaurant that closed after nine years in 2019. Both restaurants have been heralded for their takes on modern Filipino cooking, which helped introduce New York City to the Southeast Asian cuisine. At their height, Maharlika and Jeepney ranked among the best Filipino restaurants in the city.
Championing a lesser-seen, regional cuisine takes Sisyphean patience, however, and for Ponseca, working as an independent restaurant owner over the last decade has taken a toll. “One of the reasons I’m closing is that I want a better life for myself,” she says. “If I could see my vision through, it would have a support team. I don’t want to be the only one in the room anymore.”
The restaurant’s closure comes less than a year after Ponseca opened two businesses — a second location of Jeepney and Filipino barbecue spot Tita Baby’s — at the 1-800-Lucky food hall and event space in Miami, Florida. Both restaurants officially opened on January 2, one decade to the day after Ponseca opened Maharlika as a pop-up in the East Village.
Jeepney will be open for dinner from 5 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in its last two weeks of service. “I could have closed a month ago,” Ponseca says. “but I wanted to stay open so people could get their last meals and so our staff could take their final bow.”